White Awake by Daniel Hill, Free for CAPC Members
White Awake brings us back again and again, gently but inexorably, to the truths that we’re so unwilling to face, steadily prying our hands from our eyes.
***The following contains possible spoilers for The Huntsman: Winter’s War and Snow White and the Huntsman.***
Fairy tales throughout the ages have reflected upon the common struggle of good vs evil. With the invention of cinema, Walt Disney, and his animated adaptions, pioneered the first retellings of fantasy myth across this medium. From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella to Brave and Frozen, the House of Mouse has spent decades recounting these stories of folk lore. More recently there’s been huge financial success for live action remakes such as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010). The Lewis Carroll adaptation made over $1 billion at the worldwide box office; becoming the fifth highest grossing film of all time at its height. Hollywood has since taken note of the public’s taste for classic storytelling and started churning out more in this genre; usually with a darker tone–no doubt influenced by the achievement of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.Nothing can stop the reality of enduring love, not even the coldest of hearts.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War is the latest film to hit theaters along this genre’s trend. It is a spin off/prequel/sequel to 2012’s dark fantasy, Snow White and the Huntsman. Kristen Stewart starred in the title role as a pure messianic take on the princess, whose performance opens to her uttering the Lord’s Prayer in a prison cell. Much like Lewis’ Narnia, the kingdom has been hijacked by the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlie Theron), resulting in a desolated landscape. It’s up to Snow White to save the land, helped by a Scottish Huntsman called Eric (Chris Hemsworth), and of course the seven dwarfs. The Christological themes were very strong in this first installment, especially with Bob Hoskins’ dwarf prophesying over Snow White: ‘She is life itself, she will heal the land, she is the one’. Eventually confronting the evil Queen, whose magic mirror said Snow White was the fairest of them all, Ravenna kills her. That is until Snow White is resurrected by love, goes to defeat evil with a great army, and finally is crowned Queen after redeeming the land.
Whilst The Huntsman: Winter’s War isn’t quite as religiously conscious, there is one particular theme that runs throughout: the notion that love conquers all and is what ultimately lasts forever. The movie opens long before the events of its predecessor in another kingdom manipulated by Ravenna. We learn that she had a sister called Freya (Emily Blunt), who has a new born that Ravenna seeks to murder. Unaware of this, Freya, full of feelings of disillusionment and betrayal, transforms into an Elsa-like Snow Queen, isolating herself far in the North and ruling with a cold hand. Having had her heart frozen over, she devotes herself to consolidating her power over her kingdom with her army of Huntsmen. Here we see the origin of Chris Hemsworth’s character who, along with the rest of Freya’s subjects, is forbidden to love because of how it has so hurt the Snow Queen. Despite her warnings, Eric falls in love with a fellow Huntsman called Sara (Jessica Chasten), only for Freya to intervene and declare that “love ends in betrayal.” Yet this is something the young lovers refuse to believe, resulting in Freya’s attempt to punish them by forcibly separating them from each other. Freya, so damaged by her past, feels she must destroy what has so hurt her.
The majority of the movie is set several years after this opening, and allows a gap in the narrative where the events of the first film took place, with Eric having long since been exiled from the North for his “crime.” Called upon a quest by Queen Snow White, Eric must retrieve the Magic Mirror before it gets into Freya’s icy grip–but they are too late. Determined to stop evil spreading across the land, Eric and Sara storm the Ice Castle of the Miss Havisham-esque Freya. Once confronted, she soon finds out that it was Ravenna who was responsible for her child’s death. Moved by the love of the two Huntsmen, Freya has a defrosting of heart and assists them in defeating her sister. She sees how tenacious and enduring their love for one another is: “how lucky you are” she utters with a quiet, yet admirable jealously.
Whilst the phrase “love conquers all” isn’t in Scripture as sometimes thought–it was originally coined by the Roman poet Virgil in the first century B.C.–the theme saturates and flows throughout The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Nothing stands in the way of redeeming love. It isn’t soppy, wet romance that endures or defeats the darkness of the world around us, but the most jealous, fierce, and sacrificial passion that has the power to overcome anything in its path, even when it looks like evil has already won.
This kind of love is, of course, ultimately seen at the cross of Christ, where it looked like evil had destroyed our only hope. But the reality is that the Messiah of love destroyed evil and conquered death. For this reason, the Apostle Paul writes that whilst all things pass away, it is this true, raw, unyielding love that “never fails.”
People in this life may be seriously hurt and betrayed, just like Freya was by her sister Ravenna, yet she was transformed by the love she witnessed between Eric and Sara. Such self-giving love beckons even the most cold people to defrost a bit. Following Freya’s wonderful and transformative realization, The Huntsman: Winter’s War concludes with Liam Neeson’s narrator: “Even buried under ice and snow, love survives.” Nothing can stop the reality of enduring love, not even the coldest of hearts.
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