Cinderella - Romantic Inspiration

Like Polanski's Repulsion, Cinderella has featured in two series screenplays. In such, it is another huge inspiration to me as a writer. This is, in essence, what the following posts discuss with an additional quick thoughts post to round things off.

A Psychological Thriller

A wicked stepmother enslaves her innocent stepdaughter, but when a chance to go a royal ball arises, so does a chance of freedom.

This is, without a doubt, Disney's best film. It's one of my favourite films of all time. Moreover, it's probably one of the greatest stories put to film. And, yes, this is the also the film I postponed so I could write about 50 Shades Of Grey, but, like I said, I was in the mood for something not so healthy, something that wasn't good for me, but in the end probably wouldn't kill me. Anyway, enough of 50 Shades. I've been meaning to do this film for a long time and, if you're familiar with the blog, then you may have heard me talk about it before. But, we'll return to that in the end. Right now, I just want to jump into things, so let's go. Cinderella is about hope. But, more than that, it's about hope as an act, hope as a mind set. The end goal here is for me to dispel the argument that 'And they lived happily ever after' is bullshit. But also, I want to demonstrates the intricate allegory that Cinderella is, explaining a film you probably didn't think needed much explaining. To do this we'll simply run through the film, start to end, defining metaphors and seeing what they mean in respect to Cinderella's journey here. Oh, we'll also be breaking down a lot of plot holes, but also convoluting the narrative as a whole, so, heads up, head down, whatever it is, let's get to work.

With the intro we are given the song that outlines a theme of romanticism in the film, which is a segue toward hope and Cinderella's opening song. But, before that we get a bit of information about the kingdom and Cinderella's past. Her father was a widower, but died when she was young - the point at which her step-mother revealed her true colours, forcing Cinderella to be the family's scullery maid. The most important detail of this back story is this one frame:

This is our way into the depths of this film as a psychological thriller. To get into this, I advise you watch the intro quickly, paying close attention at the 0:40 second mark. LINK HERE. It's at that 43 second mark that we hear of a 'mother's care' and simultaneously see a few birds flit on screen (you can see one in the picture above). What I'm trying to establish here is a link between animals and people - specifically Cinderella's perspective of people. It's in her mind, and as the freeze-frame demonstrates, that Cinderella would attribute the memory of her father to his horse and dog, Major and Bruno. Moreover, she attributes an idea of her mother to the symbol of a bird. Now, as you know, animals play a huge role in this film with almost all direct conflict stemming from interactions between the mice, birds, cat, dog and so on. But, we aren't just watching filler in a 70-odd minute film with these scenes. What we are watching is Cinderella's memory and projections of self conflicting. The majority of this movie is just a presentation of Cinderella's will. It's her losing hope, time and time again, but persevering, rising against the people in her life. So, to explore deeper, we'll take this one animal at a time.

We'll start with Major as we've already touched on him. He is the personification of Cinderella's memory of her father. He represents the composed and devoted aspects of his character. We can also infer with the horse that maybe Cinderella's father was apart of the army, hence, Major. This reinforces the aspects of composure and control. Moreover, these characteristics all act as lessons to Cinderella. These reminders of his character make her days easier, allowing her to wake up and almost find a friend in him as to go on.

Bruno. Also a representation of Cinderella's father. This is both his playful and more emotional side, that at times lacks the composure Major does. We see this in the fact that he's a dog that hates Lucifer - the cat. We'll come to back to this in a while though. The last detail to recognise about both Major and Bruno is their age. Both are a little groggy, a bit lazy - Major even has grey hair. This shows that they have not only grown up with Cinderella, but almost grown up as her father would. If he were alive 10/15 years down the line (from the beginning) he too would be a bit groggy and even have grey hair.

The birds. Ok, I know I implied that these represent Cinderella's mother, but because there are so many of them, they don't adhere to the rule as strictly as singular characters such as Bruno or Lucifer. Fundamentally, birds are a distant idea of a mother with Cinderella. This is best understood via the mornings. The birds wake up and tend to Cinderella, who is still a teenager (19) but also quite the tortured one. Moreover, they sing with her, something that we'll come back to in a while which is very important. Overall however, birds represent both an idea of devotion and an idea of freedom. They are linked to Cinderella's mother because she is dead, but still a guiding force as she is probably the woman Cinderella aspires to be. The birds are then an idea of female maturity.

Ok, this guy. This is Cinderella's projection or idea of her stepmother. It's important to recognise here that this is not a direct representation of her, but Cinderella's way of dealing with the oppressive, golddigging. bitch. When characters such as the mice interact with Lucifer, we are seeing the inner workings of Cinderella's mind. It's the fear, the hatred, the disdain, she has for the stepmother that is being fought with her own personal character. Before moving on though, there's quite a lot we can infer from Lucifer. Also, it's here that religious undertones are implied, as you could recognise with the name Lucifer. Lucifer was of course a fallen angel. His fall from God's side may parallel the change, the undressing of the stepmother's true colours when Cinderella's father died. This then implies that Cinderella's father was God (I know, sounds a little reaching). But, to ground this idea, what's happening here is simple. Cinderella is being compared to Jesus. You can understand this in her ethics of forgiveness, self-control and general humbleness. The religious undertones, however, under my interpretation, don't go much further than this though. In short, Lucifer is a douche, just like the stepmother,

Jaq is Cinderella's primary projection of self. Jaq encapsulates her tenacity, mischievous nature, confidence and personal strength. Jaq is the wise guy, the one willing to fight Lucifer, to lead the pack. We don't see this side of Cinderella much outside of Jaq, but make no mistake, it's Jaq, Cinderella's hidden bravery, that gets her through life, that allows her to hope, dream, wish.

Gus, for all his innocence and naivety is the unfortunate projection of Cinderella's perspective of self. To understand this, we have to recognise the importance of his introduction to the film. It's after waking up that Cinderella finds Gus in a cage, a trap probably set out by the stepmother. This means that this projection of Cinderella's self is dictated primarily by anxiety, by the stepmother putting her down for these numerous years. Gus' two key characteristics are naivety and greed. The naivety feeds into Cinderella's will to fight, to rebel. This is however encapsulated by Jaq already. What this means is that Cinderella is starting to lose hope, she's starting to criticise herself with Gus. This is why it's important she nurtures and looks after him as not to let her defeat herself. The aspects of greed are also linked into Cinderella's hopelessness, her growing self-defeatist attitude. Greed with Gus is wanting too much and getting in trouble. In this respect, this...

... is Cinderella's inner commentary on romance. Is wanting to go to the ball too much? Do I deserve better? Am I being ridiculous? These are all questions in her head. But, they aren't entirely negative as they do get her out of trouble. You could argue that if Cinderella did spend more time in picking up her glass slipper, like Gus did here (he picks up a grain that another mouse abandons - just as Cinderella does the slipper) she'd be stopped by the prince and forced to show her true colours. I agree, this side of her represents her lack of confidence in self. But, it is, however, important that she does face her stepmother, that she does accept herself, in the end of the film. So, this aspect of her isn't all that bad. The last thing to say about Gus is that whilst he's a little ditsy, so is Cinderella. But, that, again, isn't all that bad.

The rest of the mice are also projections of Cinderella's self. However, they aren't too specific. What they represent is Cinderella's capacity to work hard, persevere, but also collect herself. This is incredibly important in the dress making scene, but, we'll come to that later.

Ok, so now we understand who Cinderella is. She is an amalgamation of all these characters discussed. She's not just meek, naive and full of hope. She fights for her revelation in the end. This film is, as you can now see, a psychological battle between Cinderella's me, myselves and Is. Knowing this, let's move onto to the first real scene of the film to establish themes. The two main ideas or themes in this film are Time and Hope. This is perfectly captured by Cinderella's (click the picture to watch) opening song:

I've got to say that this is my favourite Disney song of all time and one of the greatest scenes ever. It has a perfect balance of tone, atmosphere and feeling that perfectly sets up the film, imbuing the audience with hope, not just telling them of it. Now, where the clip ends is where our biggest theme comes in. The clip ends just before the clock strikes, introducing an idea of time and reality. When you juxtapose this with Cinderella's A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Aches, you end up with a debate very similar to one I covered with The Matrix - Is It All Really That Bad?. Cinderella's problem is that her reality is controlled by time, that her world is controlled by her stepmother. This is why hope is so important. Hopes, dreams and wishes are the same thing. They are an idea of imagination - which also makes this being a psychological thriller with a myriad of talking animal projections all the more necessary. Cinderella is incredibly dependant imagination as she cannot change reality, she doesn't see herself as having the power to. Whilst there are great messages in films like Tangled or Frozen about women taking action and physically fighting against adversity, I think Cinderella holds an equal, even better message. The criticism of the old Disney films revolves around damsels in distress. Cinderella is not a damsel in distress. She fights her own personal and mental battle to gain the confidence to seek out love and change her life. This doesn't mean she needs a man to get by. This most definitely isn't the message of the film. The message is dependant on recognising that Cinderella wants love. She wants not needs a relationship and love (as most human beings do). This means that the physical fight here isn't necessary as this is a film about changing on the inside as to cope with externals. Cinderella actually fills gaps of other empowering films such as Frozen and Tangled. Frozen and Tangled are about acting with confidence as a woman. Cinderella is about finding that confidence. This, again, throws back to the Matrix post. Saying Let It Go is a great message, but actually doing that is incredibly hard. You need the message of hope captured by Cinderella to complete the picture painted by the likes of Frozen and Tangled. And it's with the opening song that this seed of philosophy is planted. In short, Cinderella asserts to herself that she must hang on, that she must continue to persevere with each and every morning. And it's after this that she counteracts the point with Gus. She begins to see herself as trapped. But, this is exactly what catalyses the movement of the narrative and her life toward action.

After this we meet the other characters (as discussed) with one pivotal interaction with Bruno. I'm talking about the scene where Bruno dreams. Remembering now that this is Cinderella's idea of her father, what we are seeing is her dad being enraged by the idea of the cat, of the woman that betrayed him and tortures his daughter. However, Cinderella tells Bruno off, not only for hating the cat (the stepmother - and rightly so) but also for dreaming. This sounds hypocritical coming from a girl that just sang about dreams being wishes the heart aches. But, it's not. Her justification for this is that Bruno doesn't want to lose a warm bed. This is her comment to anyone claiming she's a damsel in distress. Yes, she in a bad situation, but this is also her home, this is where she belongs - and she has nowhere else to go. This is why it's important for her to stay, to psychologically battle with an idea of her stepmother so she may eventually overcome.

The next key moment after this is the end the segment with Gus, Lucifer and the cups. This not only demonstrates how Cinderella is trapped by the idea of her stepmother, but introduces an idea of probability into the film which becomes all the more important as we progress. It's with the scene between Gus, Lucifer and the doors that an idea of all or nothing, which is prevalent in the film, becomes obvious. In short, Gus is saved by there being three cups. They prevent Lucifer finding him at first. However, the cups are then taken into the rooms, where everything simply turns into a waiting game. And so, Lucifer waits until one of the girls scream and Gus comes running out. He grabs him, but Cinderella puts a stop to it. After Cinderella gets into trouble, we cut to the castle where, just like with Gus and Lucifer, the King decides to wait, to put all his eggs in one basket to have his son fall in love. These given ideas of probability, all or nothing and putting all your eggs in one basket are pivotal in Cinderella. In short, the film argues that there is always opportunity out there. The odds can be stacked against you, but you have to take the opportunity, assert yourself in the situation. Just like Gus inevitably being caught is stopped by Cinderella, the Prince inevitably finding a woman to marry has to be intervened by her too. Cinderella must take hold of opportunity. This is the film's rationale against the idea of Cinderella finding true love being an ex-machina. However, that doesn't mean the film isn't romantic and doesn't take liberties, but, despite elements of luck there is a solid message in Cinderella you can take seriously: grab the bull by the horns essentially.

The next key scene we come to is before the news of the ball is delivered. What we're talking about here is the singing lesson. It's through comparing Cinderella to Drizella and Anastasia that we can recognise the importance of the opening song and also the birds. A nightingale, the bird the song they sing is about, is a symbol in literature that represents sorrow and beauty. For the nightingale to sing is almost a test, it's a question of character. To understand this, just look at Drizella and Anastasia. They can't sing, aren't very attractive and aren't very nice people. They have no song worth hearing in other words. Cinderella on the other hand is not only beautiful, but can sing and is a fair, composed person. The importance of beauty here is all linked to jealousy and the stepmother. It's because Cinderella is beautiful that she primarily dislikes her. This song thus captures the irrational attack on people from a position of powerlessness or ineptitude. In other words, the stepmother drags Cinderella down because she is all that Cinderella is not. Most importantly the stepmother lacks self-control or self-respect. This is what kills her, and is exactly what allows Cinderella to overcome her. This means that the birds being connected to an idea of Cinderella's mother is her accepting that she shouldn't hate herself for the same reasons her stepmother does. It's the birds, that can sing, that teach her to be humble, patient, controlled - all ways in which she may be imitating a memory of her mother. It's by tracking this that you can see Cinderella's growth as a woman throughout the film, and all on a psychological level.

Ok, so after this we get the dress making scene. This seems like an irrational plug to get the film where it needs to be in the end - Cinderella with a dress and at the ball despite the chores she has to do. This, as you could infer by now, isn't a plot hole though. The mice and birds all represent Cinderella's perseverance. What this implies is that she found the time, that she had the tenacity to steal the beads, the sash and not do house work (which she doesn't have to do as it's done already - her stepmother told her to do it all again). The reason why this wasn't shown may be down to preserving the image of Cinderella's character (not showing her steal), but more than this, is this not a much more cinematic and entertaining way of telling a story? There's just miles more depth in having representations of Cinderella's psyche do the work, persevere and so on. You externalise emotions, cinematically conveying feelings and mental growth. But, having made the dress, having cheated her way toward the ball, Cinderella's caught out. The malicious nature of the stepmother overcomes her again, tearing away all senses of hope. It's here where we are introduced to the final projection of Cinderella's imagination:

The fairy godmother is the epitome of hope, is the last reserve Cinderella has. This is where she turns in her darkest moment. I quote the movie here: 'If you lost all your faith, I couldn't be here. And here I am.' These are the words of the fairy godmother that solidify the idea that we are seeing projections of Cinderella's imagination. It's faith that manifests the fairy godmother. Faith is belief - all products of the mind, of hope, dreams, imagination. What's also key to recognise here is an aspect of childish hope. By this I mean the concept of a fairy. Cinderella has to regress into her childhood to find the last inklings of hope and dreams. This is what gives her the means to go on - naivety. What this makes clear is that sometimes you have to blind yourself to go on. You have to ignore probability, reality, reasoning to physically get through the improbable. However, coming back to the idea of childhood, we can now justify the lyrics:

Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo
Put 'em together and what have you got

Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo
It'll do magic believe it or not

Salagadoola means mechicka booleroo
But the thingmabob that does the job is

Salagadoola menchicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo
Put 'em together and what have you got
bippity-boppity bippity-boppity bippity-boppity-boo

The majority of this is nonsense, just as a kid's chant or song of this nature would be. Take away sense and reasoning and just believe, then life becomes easier. That means that the metaphor of this scene is that Cinderella fixed some kind of dress for herself and went to the ball - she persevered. What you then have to infer is that the dress is also a metaphor. This is all a given if you can accept that the animals are mere projections. The mice, Bruno and Major all transform, indicating a boost in Cinderella's confidence. In short, she's using the idea of her father as guidance - he acts as a chaperone. But, staying with the dress, what we are seeing is hope toward social transcendence. This is also why the glass slipper is the most important symbol in the film. The dress and slippers are a facade that gives Cinderella confidence, but they are also the true manifestation of her hope. The shoes are glass, however, because the hope, the dream of Cinderella overcoming everything is fragile. Nonetheless, she meets the prince, she does dance, and most importantly, she keeps the slippers. This implies that what remains after the night is Cinderella's confidence. She manages to keep her dream alive, she is able to hold onto an idea of love.

It's now that we can jump to the end of the film. Here the figurative entrapment of Cinderella becomes literal. To fight this she needs a bit of help from her projections. It's Gus and Jaq, the two conflicting ideas of her self (the good and bad, or the better and worse) that have to work together to get the key. Opening the door isn't that easy though as the domineering idea of the stepmother steps in. However, lessons, or ideas of Cinderella's parents finally come into effect. First it's her mother, then it's her father, who gets to exact his revenge on the woman that betrayed them. This kind of means that Lucifer dies and Bruno (the father) killed him. I mean...

... but, don't worry. This isn't literal. Cinderella merely relinquishes the idea of her stepmother from her mind. Even if the cat dies, so what? He was an ass. I don't like cats, what can I say? Anyways, meanwhile, downstairs the glass slipper is being tried on by Anastasia and Dizella. The key plot hole here is that the slipper should be able to fit an awful lot of girls in the kingdom. This is why recognising it as a metaphor is so important. It's a metaphor for Cinderella's virtue, Cinderella's strength, hope and resilience. This is what is unique to her. This is what no other woman in the kingdom has. This is what the prince is really looking for. So, in the end, the one slipper can break, all of Cinderella's faith and hope crushed by the stepmother's jealousy yet again, but, it's just not enough.

She has the other shoe. It's then because of this that she can live happily ever after. Why? How? Happiness, just like hope has been thoroughly demonstrated as being a mindset that allows you to act. When you've been through what Cinderella has, when you've been through massive psychological duress and pressure, but made it through by the strength of your own will, you've proved your ability to cope. This is the true message encapsulated by the 'happily ever after'. Cinderella has learnt a life changing lesson. Because she is capable, she will ensure she lives that happily ever after.

The 3 Plot Lines

Quite possibly Disney greatest film. Also, the last post in the Legacy Series.

I love Cinderella. It's one of my favourite films of all time. I've written about it for the Disney Series and in connection to another screenplay, Inaffection: The Absence. In the previous post we explored the idea that Cinderella is essentially a psychological thriller. The mice, birds and so on are a projection of her hidden psyche which evolve the narrative into an exploration of inner strength. Keeping that in mind, I'd like to throw a quick overview of the Legacy Series at you. We started with Meshes Of The Afternoon where we explored the idea of narrative and non-narrative. Next was a revisit to Repulsion where we looked at a how Polanski revolutionises his plot with the final image. With the proceeding two posts on another two of Maya Deren's experimental films, Witch's Cradle and The Private Life Of A Cat, we looked at two devices of narrative: imagery and personification. All of these posts essentially discuss how to manipulate your narrative, to inject something exciting and revelatory into your story. What has then been discussed across all of these posts is both what art is and a narrative is. The two major take aways are that art is about a communication between an audience and artist, and that a narrative is there to facilitate that communication by building off of the bones of a plot. In this final post I want to bring everything together under the idea of plot, which we haven't really gotten into yet, and so discuss what Cinderella being a psychological thriller can teach us about screenwriting - maybe writing or creative production in general.

To start, I'll essentially repeat the title: there are 3 plot lines in your film. To clarify, there are 3 types of plot lines in films, but you don't have to really appeal to all of them. You'll hopefully have decided what you think the point of writing/making films is before this, and so be able to determine if you agree with this philosophy of script writing. Ok, so the first plot in your film is going to be the obvious one: what happens. Let's look at Cinderella to expand. If you were to note down all of the major plot points of the first act, you'd get something like this:

1. Introduce the film through Cinderella's back story.


2. Open on Cinderella singing her song, getting ready before showing her morning routine.


3. Introducing all the characters of the film, establishing the conflict between the mice and Lucifer before demonstrating the control the evil stepmother has over Cinderella.


4. Introduce the second act via the end goal of the movie (the Prince finding a bride) before linking that to Cinderella herself. To complicate matters, remind everyone of the conflict to come.


From here, you could imagine the major plot points extending through the rest of the film. Here, we have screenwriting 101, it's as simple as it gets and no one really needs to be told about it. This kind of plot is there to ensure some kind of movement. You also here this expressed as 'change', but plots don't always need much change as would be demonstrated by the likes of:


We'll to why these films work in a moment, but they firstly express that narratives don't need 'change', which implies a spatial movement or a large arcing plot demonstrated by epics such as...


Plots of this type need to get you from A to B. They are completely dependent on external, physical conflict. If you look back to the first 4 plot points of Cinderella you see the major points of conflict. Firstly, there's Cinderella's past and how it relates to her current situation: a slave to her step mother. The second and third show the conflict between the animals and the cat - as well as between Cinderella and her 'family'. Lastly, we see the way out of the conflict (the Prince). However, in this we only find more conflict - and that's what the second and third act will echo until Cinderella overcomes all conflict. Seeing this, you can recognise that, like Clerks, Before Sunrise, The Shining and Lost In Translation, conflict can come in small doses, that it's not attached to different locations, and the expression of that physical conflict doesn't have to be war. Having said that, we move to the second type of plot.

The second kind of plot is a much harder concept to demonstrate on screen. It's the plot of your character arc, of internal conflict. We'll demonstrate again with the first act of Cinderella:

1. The emotional torment Cinderella has endured in her young life is exposited.


2. Cinderella as an adult demonstrates her emotional growth, her ability to carry on under duress as well as hold on to hopes and dreams.


3. Emotional stakes are added to the film by demonstrating the fear the mice have over Lucifer as well as the stress Cinderella is under because of how much of a bitch her stepmother is.


4. The emotional stakes are juxtaposed with a route towards happiness, putting Cinderella's emotions in a precarious position; her hope is somewhat realise, her way out of the house shown, but all under the jealous eye of the family keeping her slave.

Image result for cinderella king  Image result for cinderella bubble  Image result for cinderella stepmother

What we are seeing here is the plotting of Cinderella's character arc. She transforms from a girl in a terrible situation, but with hope, into a princess. The first plot is then clearly interweaved into this second one in that we see the physical journey towards Cinderella as a princess paralleling her emotional journey. The crux of having these two plots speak to each other well is in showing how one type of conflict affects another. In other words, you show how Cinderella reacts to things around her, but also how he actively works to change her physical surroundings. It's recognising this that we can come back to these four films:


These films work by having very little happen in respect to physical conflict (like that seen in epics like The Lord Of The Rings or Lawrence Of Arabia) by having a huge pool of internal conflicts. This doesn't mean you have too construct a low-budget drama with high emotional stakes though. In fact, almost all of these films show the opposite. Before Sunrise capitalises on a slowly growing romance, a simple idea of emotional connection. It translates this through conflict. The dialogue between Jessie and Celine is the physical conflict as it can literally pull them together and push them apart, but it is also the expression of a internal conflict as it demonstrates how they are feeling, how they're internally changing. This is great writing as it has the pure balls to present conflict in such a subdued manner - such is also present in Clerks. Clerks is a special example though as the emotional stakes are very, very, low. The conflict presented through dialogue between characters is quite superficial. There's a bit of relationship stuff and disagreement, but it's not heightened and melodramatic - but such is the beauty of the movie. The most poignant parts of the film are when Dante and Randal argue about Star Wars, cigarettes and customers. The conflict here is almost invisible, but we feel it just like we would in a court room drama...


These films are all about a heightened disagreement between characters that imply a physical conflict - a guy going to jail for the most part. Clerks presents a very similar kind of narrative, just with different pacing and a more comedic tone. Coming to Lost In Translation and The Shining we are seeing the use of a location as a fundamental expression of a character's internal feelings. The Shining uses the Outlook Hotel to essentially drive Jack mad, to turn internal conflict external. With Lost In Translation we see Tokyo as a foreign place that drives two characters together, daring them to let that become physical conflict - a sexual relationship between two married persons. Through this we are seeing the crux of most great films. They use character plotting as well as incident plotting to tell us a good story.

This is such an important thing to do because it echoes everything about narrative covered in the Legacy Series so far. Narrative is all about the whole of a movie, is about communicating ideas to an audience. To do this you need subjects: characters, themes and points. Themes are there to frame the point your trying to make with a story. Coming back to Cinderella we see the themes to be of isolation, dreams and hope. The purpose of the story, it's point, is to talk of perseverance. So, by using character, Cinderella, as a vessel to stream through themes, we see the tangible means by which the point of the film is made: if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish can come true. What this all does is set up a resonance chamber. With each frame you are echoing through theses points, themes and ideas of character, and you know when they hit your audience, when the points really resonate, when the film does this thing called entertain. This is the point of the first two plots, they are there to find a way to engage your audience in your story through conflict so that they can be taken on a journey, an emotional progression, and come through having felt they experienced something worthwhile, that they feel the point you were making and that they like/agree with it. This, for many, is the core reason why we watch movies, why we want to make movies. We want to be able to be entertained, to have our attention captivated, our emotions manipulated. What this says about cinema is that it is, quite literally, a roller coaster ride. Instead of experiencing what it means to be physically tested, with movies we are experiencing an emotional and perceptual test.

However, there's still one more plot line. As you may be questioning right now: why has he used Cinderella to tell us about these mediocre concepts? Well, the point is in the fact that Cinderella's first two types of plot, ones of events and of character, aren't incredibly strong. The plot of events is quite clunky, showing a rather straight forward movement from the home, to the ball and back to the home again before Cinderella can try the shoe on. Moreover, the film is full of what seem like plot filler - almost everything with the mice. There's just not that much physical conflict in this film, and because Disney wouldn't just have Cinderella talking to the mice for 75 minutes, they seemed to have added in everything with the mice. It's here where I'll stop momentarily to say that, yes, the action with the mice would often be defined as a secondary plot line. In many films we see numerous sets of events, or plots, coming together to produce a narrative...

Pulp Fiction would probably be the most obvious example of this. Whilst you would refer to all the different sets of events in this film as plot 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on, what I mean to distinguish with my different plots is that there's different types of, or layers to, a plot. That clarified, we come back to Cinderella. The second type of plot in Cinderella, just like the first type, isn't that strong either. Cinderella's character arc is often criticised as being too reactionary and bland - the manifestation of this point normally being that Disney films are somewhat sexist in their portrayal of female characters as needing a man to solve their problems. Whilst I see the argument for this, I don't think it's the end of the world, neither do I think it entails a complete reading of the film. Before moving onto that, yes, this is a kid's film, which means most of its audience won't be delving too deep into it, which upholds the initial criticism to a certain degree. That said, the third plot line.

Cinderella, as said, is about an independent growth, an introspective and psychological journey of a girl/woman overcoming her stepmother. What Cinderella then best defines is a subtextual plot. This is the third kind of plot which elevates a movie from simple entertainment to more serious art. This is probably the hardest part of filmmaking/screenwriting to grip as it's not something you can really communicate with a beat sheet, set of diagrams or terms. To construct this kind of plot, to give your film that artsy finish, you need to have something to say, you need to be able to implement visual metaphors through various cinematic outlets. Having the 'something to say' part isn't that hard. You already need this to construct a basic plot. To get from A to B, you usually have to give reasoning for why we're going through the trouble. With Cinderella the point of the plots is to talk about hope, dreams and perseverance. Even films that look like they're just the bare bones of a single basic plot with no character...


... have a point. With Mad Max you have a film that is essentially about feminist and socialist ideals. The expression of this though is pretty stupid as...

... WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU WASTING ALL THE WATER!?!?!? This is how you put across your point stupidly. You find simple images like a guy not giving everyone much water and then end on an inconclusive and painfully simplistic one such as: let the women take over and give the people all the water. However, with The Raid we see an equally simply plot, but one with a more coherent subtext about loyalty and a brotherly bond. Whilst neither of these films have very solid subtext worth paying an awful lot of attention to, they're still there - and that's the point.

Recognising this, it makes sense to not let the third plot of your movie be an unconscious byproduct of having a narrative. Why not use that third plot to say something more? It's here where your philosophy of what a film is will determine whether or not you take the third plot line seriously. If you think films should just entertain, not really try to say something pretentious and grandiose, that audience don't care much about meaning, then it's fine to overlook this. However, because I enjoy this third layer of a story and I see a huge chunk of reasoning for writing behind this, I like to concentrate on it. So, for the last time, let's delve into Cinderella's first act looking the subtextual meaning:

1. The characters are shown to us and set up in their most basic format. The father is kind, the second lost love of Cinderella's young life - her mother the first - and the stepmother is a gold digging whore with two assholes for kids.


2. We see Cinderella as a developed persona, but one with scars. These scars are expressed through the animals around her - they essentially demonstrate how Cinderella sees herself. There's all the mice and then the birds that cite her work ethic and ability to get on in life with some optimism and tenacity. Moreover, the birds are figures representative of Cinderella's mother - as established by the opening. In addition, we see the horse, Major, and dog, Bruno, as projections of Cinderella's father. This is also set up by the opening.


3. With the conflict between the mice and Lucifer we see the subtextual conflict between Cinderella's projections of self and how she perceives the evil step mother (she's the cat). This sets up the psychological battle between Cinderella believing in herself (in part, because of her parents) and doubting herself (because of her stepmother).


4. Cinderella, a girl who wishes of being loved, of having a family of good standing who will be compassionate and freeing, is confronted with an opportunity to fight for a dream.


This is the rough subtext provided by the third plot of the movie. What we see here is the external conflict presented by the first plot interacting with the internal conflicts of the second. To justify this, to weave together the physical and emotional worlds as to say something concise and profound to the audience, the third plot works with metaphors, self-referencing and commentary.

The third plot line pretty much speaks for itself, demonstrating its own importance and draw. I believe seeing the subtext of a movie in terms of an actual plot you could (if this is who you work) write down on cards is so important as it makes an 'artistic' concept of 'meaning', 'subtext' and 'layers' tangible. Understanding what these three plot types are, both as an audience member and writer, you are employing new dexterous techniques that allow you to see cinema as something much more complex and beautiful that a time filler.

Cinderella - Refocused

The classical narrative we all know; a maid is given the chance to go to a royal ball by her Fairy Godmother.

Out of pure interest, I decided to watch the earliest adaptation of the classic fairy tale, Cinderella, originally published in the late 1600s - the 1950 Disney adaptation being one of my favourite films of all time and so a mark of incentive. This is only a 5 minute short and so a rather meagre projection of a story we’ve grown to know on a greater, deeper scale, however, in this short we see a very interesting point of comparison to the 50s classic. The short opens without any back story, without any characterisation given to Cinderella and no mention of evil step-mothers, sisters, kings or plans for a royal ball. Instantly we’re thrown into the narrative with iconic Méliès filmic magic as The Fairy Godmother appears, transforming rats and a pumpkin into a horse and carriage to whisk Cinderella to the ball. Here, again, no characterisation or particular plot points, Cinderella catches The Prince’s eye and the two dance. But, before the dance is over we get another iconic staple of a Méliès film - a demonic or insidious figure showing up out of nowhere. Just like The Selenites in A Trip To The Moon or the ghosts in The Haunted Castle, Time shows up in the middle of the ball - a man holding a huge clock. This is an interesting cinematic projection of Cinderella’s story, one that somewhat overshadows that seen in the Disney adaptation. In the animated 50s version, Cinderella is just told that when the clock strikes midnight, the magic will be reversed. And when the clock strikes, Cinderella of course starts running, leaving behind a glass slipper. In this short, when Time shows up, he cues The Fairy Godmother again who transforms Cinderella, taking away her dress. The subtext beneath this is much more complex than that provided in the Disney version because The Fairy Godmother’s magical power is directly attached to her. Instead of the magic just wearing away, she has to turn it up and reverse it. This adds a depth and complication to her character with the symbolic figure of Time further providing a Shakespearean sense of tragedy and futility, under the guise of time, to the story. This is something incredibly intriguing - especially with speculation on how this could elevate the Disney classic. However, there’s a further detail given with this segment in the short. When Cinderella is revealed to be little more than a raggedy maid, those attending the royal ball start pushing her around, laughing at her, forcing her out of the palace. Again, another element that would add greater depth to the Disney classic. This is mostly because of the reaction of The Prince. He still pursues the girl. What’s more, the glass slipper is left behind, further complicating The Fairy Godmother.

The next scene is what shines most from this short. Arriving home devastated Cinderella is not left to her sorrows, but bombarded with visions of clocks, giant ones that dance, that seem to mock her as they shift shape to and from young girls as Cinderella watches, distraught. This psychological element of the film serves as a pivotal piece of characterisation for Cinderella and adds quite a bit of depth to this 400 second (aprox.) story. With archetype of Time attached with young girls and the fact that Cinderella is dreaming, we have a much darker projection of Cinderella’s otherwise melancholy opening song, “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes”.

There isn’t hope and optimism in Cinderella’s dream within the short, there is fear - one that adds great poignancy to a scene that is reactionary to the royal ball sequence. Again, this conceptually overshadows what we see in the Disney adaptation. However, from this high point, the film rushes to an end with Cinderella being woken by her step-sisters before (who I think is) The Prince shows up. He tries the slipper on the sisters, then Cinderella - finding his match in a rather flat manner. Before The Prince can take Cinderella away, however, she makes a call to her Fairy Godmother, who shows up again, bestowing upon her a dress. (I’ll leave the subtext of this to your analysis). After this Cinderella is married, people dance, the end.

The main take away I then got from this film was a surge of questions for the Disney adaptation. Would it not make sense for The Fairy Godmother to be a greater part of this narrative? Could the ball scene have had greater emotional depth and stakes? Could this have been a more directly psychological or surrealist film?

These are questions I’ll leave you to ponder and maybe discuss below.

Before you go, if you're interested in finding out the ways in which Cinderella has inspired me, make sure you check out...

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