Gretel & Hansel

02/16/2020 14:05

Film: Gretel & Hansel

Year: 2020

Director: Oz Perkins

Writer: Rob Hayes

Starring: Sophia Lillis, Charles Babalola and Alice Krige



This was a movie that I was excited about when I heard that it was coming out. I’ve seen both of Oz Perkins’ films, The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House ahead of this one. I liked the former and I’ve in the minority that digs the latter as well. Coming into this, I had an idea of how this would go as I knew the style. My wife also agreed to come with me while we were dating. I’ve now given it a rewatch for the Podcast Under the Stairs’ Movie Clube Challenge.

Synopsis: a long time ago in a distant fairy tale countryside, a young girl leads her little brother into a dark wood in desperate search of food and work, only to stumble upon a nexus of terrifying evil.

We start by learning about a tale of this beautiful girl being born in a small village. They all know that she is not going to survive her first winter, so the father takes her to a witch that sits on a hill under a triangle to get the curse removed from her. The problem though is that the witch also bestows the gift of sight on her. The townspeople come to her to learn the future, but her prophecies never end well. We also learn she has darker abilities. She is then left in the forest to fend for herself. As a way of revenge, there’s a hole in the ground that she lures children to.

It then shifts to Gretel (Sophia Lillis) she introduces herself and that home life is tough. Her father passed away and her mother is struggling to provide for her and her little brother, Hansel (Samuel Leakey). He is attached to her hip and comes along with her to an interview. Gretel’s mother said it is for her becoming a housekeeper for nobility in the area. The interview doesn’t go well as we see the truth of what this man is looking for.

Her mother isn’t happy that Gretel didn’t go along with it and kicks both her as well as Hansel out. It is more that she can no longer provide them and has lost her mind a bit to be honest. The two children then set off into the woods. They encounter some creepy things as well as a hunter, Charles Babalola. He directs them where they can go to earn their keep and safety. Things don’t go as planned though as they come to an odd house that belongs to Holda (Alice Krige). The two of them semi-force their way in, but she gives them food and shelter. Gretel always tells Hansel to be weary of gifts and we learn the truth of what is going on here as Holda mentors Gretel to her true potential.

I felt that I needed to give as well of a recap as I could as to not spoil things, but this also doesn’t have the most complex story. I personally dug that they use the fable of Hansel and Gretel, but Perkins also does a bit of his own thing as well.

We get two different stories going on here. The tale that is presented in the beginning is the history, but it is also considered to be almost a folktale. The two stories converge as well, which I liked. Much like the fairy tales that we grew up with, this is an allegory that is presenting different things, but doing it in a fantastical type of way. One of which is puberty and Gretel becoming a woman. There’s an intriguing scene where she gets her first period, which seems to be brought on by something that Holda does and she predicts it. Holda wants her to embrace growing into womanhood where it is scary for Gretel. There also seems to be shame there. During the interview with Master Stripp (Donncha Crowely), he asks if she is a virgin. This embarrasses her for good reason. There almost seems to be ‘wolves’ out here after this young woman, including Holda. She does it in a different way though.

The other allegory is that of motherhood. The two kids’ mother is horrible. She is broken mentally and can’t care for her children and forces them to fend for themselves. I shouldn’t judge her too harshly, but what she does is sad. This forces Gretel to almost become a young mother, trying to raise a child that she isn’t ready for. It is interesting to have a cautionary tale like this in an era where popular shows for reality TV are like 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom.

Then to spin this to a positive the movie is conveying, I dug how empowering for women this movie is. The young girl at the start is cast out for her power. Holda is a powerful witch. We see that Gretel has some subtle power in the beginning and Holda hints that there’s much more that is stored within her. She’s out to release this power and to help her cultivate it. Even Gretel’s mother is doing what she can to survive. It is Hansel who is naïve to things where Gretel is showing him the way to not be taken advantage of. I did appreciate this.

Something else that I wanted to slide in here is more commentary I picked up on. During the interview, Gretel claims that the land is cursed where Master Stripp says it is only the stupidity of man. The townspeople are struggling as there is a famine. This feels like a commentary on capitalism since Master Stripp is doing fine while those around Gretel, including her family are starving. This feels par for the course with my thoughts on this system we live in as well.

Now I did originally think that this movie was missing something. The two stories are interesting. I even think the reveal of Holda with the original story that is introduced was good along her interactions with the two children. I just feel didn’t necessarily feel satisfied that first time around. I’ll be honest that I don’t seem to be carrying that anymore. I’m not sure why, but this just worked better for me the second time around.

That will take me to the acting of this, which I thought was strong. Lillis does well in her facial expressions and I like the changes that come over her character in this movie. She is the star for sure. Krige did an amazing job as well. She is so creepy and so mysterious that I thought it worked for sure. It is intriguing though as this goes along that she disappears a bit. That could be part of my issue originally. Now I can see that is to allow Gretel to learn things. Jessica De Gouw was quite attractive and I thought she was fine as well as Leakey and the rest of the cast. What I want to say about him, Leakey is interesting as Hansel. He is naïve, whiny and has growing up to do. That happens during their ordeal with Holda.

Since this movie is dealing with a witch and there’s magic, this movie does use some CGI. To be honest, I didn’t have issues with it and I’ll let it slide. What I wanted to talk about though was the cinematography which I thought was great. Visually this movie is stunning and the lighting helps here as well. It does feel like we’re in a fairy tale and it is able to convey some things through this without needing to tell us as well.

The last thing to go over would be the soundtrack. This was also something that I enjoyed. A podcast brought up how it doesn’t fit the traditional string instruments you’d get a movie like this, but more like a synth sound from the 80’s. Whatever it is, it made me feel uncomfortable and helps to enhance the feel the movie is going for. Some also had issues with the voice-over we get from Lillis, but I didn’t mind it. It wasn’t necessarily needed. It just didn’t ruin anything for me. If anything, I give it credit to make it feel more like a fairy tale.

In conclusion, this is an interesting take on a classic fairy tale. I like the back-story that have here and a different spin as well. The social commentary it gets across is something else that I can get behind along with the amazing visuals and the soundtrack that fit along with it. The acting was good across the board as well. This is a polarizing for some people as it is pretty arthouse if I’m honest. I enjoyed this the first time and it worked even better for me after a second watch. If what I’ve said here sounds good, then give it a chance for sure.


My Rating: 8 out of 10