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The King and Queen plan an opulent feast to celebrate the birth of their long-awaited child, Dornröschen. They invite not only the members of the court, but also the fairies, so that they may bestow wealth and virtue on the Princess. But there are thirteen fairies, and only twelve golden plates - so the king instructs his messenger to leave one fairy out, the Fairy of Industry. Furious, she arrives at the celebration and wishes death upon the child: on her fifteenth birthday, the child will prick her finger on a spindle and die. Luckily the curse can be made milder, and one of the fairies prevents the death of Dornröschen. However, to punish the King for his obsession with wealth and his rude treatment of the 13th fairy, she proclaims that when Dornröschen pricks her finger, she and the entire court will sleep for 100 years. In an attempt to prevent this curse from taking effect, the King orders that all spindles in the kingdom be burned. But nothing can stop the fairy's curse; on her...Written by
DEFA Film Library
'Sleeping Beauty' has always been among my favourite fairy-tales, Charles Perrault and Brothers Grimm versions, the story and characters charmed me as a child (through reading the story and various adaptations) and get just as much out of it now. Same with the Disney film, a personal favourite of mine, and Tchaikovsky's ballet, one of the quintessential ballets.
DEFA's 1971 version of 'Sleeping Beauty' is one of a number of a fairy/folk tale adaptations made in East Germany, some better and more popular than others but they are worth the look and better done than most fairy/folk tale adaptations, regardless of their age. 'Sleeping Beauty' is charming and nicely done with a good deal in its favour, anybody who is familiar with any of the other DEFA fairy-tale films and liked them should find what they liked about them will be present here. As someone who is familiar with and has liked them, that was the case with me watching this.
It is a little draggy and stagy in spots, particularly when the prince is introduced. Burkhard Mann makes an already fairly bland character in the story blander.
While the music score is nice enough on its own, part of me felt like the more modern touch to it didn't fit and dates the film a bit.
However, 'Sleeping Beauty' looks pleasing. The sets are simple and sparsely detailed, but are cleverly used and are still not hard on the eyes. The costumes are more interesting and are very colourful, the best thing about the film visually, and it's all complemented beautifully by the photography and lighting, the latter of which actually making the sets more interesting than they are. Walter Beck directs with a sure and loving hand.
Writing doesn't become too cheesy or camp, while being fun enough to stop the treatment of the story from being taken too seriously. When it got going, the story had immense charm and was engaging, it was easy to follow without being too simple and nothing childish or too scary. It is a respectful as an adaptation (closer to Grimm than to Perrault) as is the spirit, even if at times dramatically it could have had a little more kick in spots. The strong message that the film has is either going to intrigue people or perplex others. More the former with me, and thought it brought some dimension. Also dimensional was the film's portrayal of the economy and the very different and very interesting portrayals of the Evil Fairy, or more the 13th fairy, and the King.
Juliane Korén enchants in the title role, bringing a lot to a difficult character to not make dull, and while Vera Oelschlegel is the most beautiful 'Sleeping Beauty' Evil Fairy (tending to be portrayed as ugly) imaginable you feel the character's menace but also hurt. Helmut Schreiber provides one of the most interesting 'Sleeping Beauty' kings, the complete opposite to the character's usual portrayals including in the original story but portraying him this way it makes the Evil Fairy's hurt more understandable.
Altogether, good. 7/10
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