Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Into the Woods, a film

Listen, I love movies. And I love Broadway musicals. In the same way, I suppose, that one can love walks in the park and also, deep dish pizza. Both are story-telling entertainments, but distinctly birds of different feathers. I was talking about the recent film, Into the Woods, with someone yesterday and she raised an interesting question: Why make a movie based on a musical? I’ve been thinking about this, and can only guess that the people behind it are like me and love both too. And it seems to me that if you’re going to adapt something from one medium to another, the focus should be on what the new medium can do that the other couldn’t. In the case of film, there’s cinematography, of course, the ability to paint a broader scene than that on a stage. And there’s editing, the honing of moments that’s impossible during a live show. And we get the actors in close-up. Characters in musicals tend to be painted in broad strokes but in a film, we’re able to get closer.

I’ve seen lots of musicals but have never seen a production of Into the Woods. And it’s only now that I’m becoming aware of the uproar about director Rob Marshall’s decisions to cut certain characters and songs and the fear that what he’d give us would be a Disney-approved dumbing-down of a complicated musical containing some dark stuff. Again, I haven’t seen the musical (but I will), so I can’t comment on that. And maybe that’s for the best. Because I loved Into the Woods, the film, and I’m glad, in a way, that I wasn’t distracted by a previous version in another medium. It seemed to me that the filmmakers used every tool in the movie-making box to translate this from stage to screen. The shots in the woods were beautifully and hauntingly done; the scenes had a continuity, one to the next, that felt like a musical. I thought all the actors did a fabulous job. And as fans of the Broadway version already know, all the songs are great. It’s funny and touching and entertaining from start to finish. I saw it with my daughter and a couple of her friends (all twelve years old). The friends weren’t impressed; they thought it boring and long. My daughter loved it but then again, this is the girl who’s seen Wicked four times. If you don’t like musicals will you love the movie? I don’t know. If you love this musical, will you hate the movie? I don’t know. I only know that it was a very enjoyable afternoon for me.


Post a Comment

"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka