Film Fest 4: 'Ever After' (1998)
By: Kate Kennedy
I remember the exact moment when my auntie handed me a video copy of Ever After aged seven and a moment which from then on began both an obsession and a captivation with the story and its characters. Seven years old seems like a very young age to claim to have a ‘favourite film’ but even despite many other amazing films coming out in the last twenty years it remains my favourite to this day.
Ever After is a reimagining of the classic tale of Cinderella. But what is different about this tale is its historical accuracy (or as historically accurate as creatively possible). Set in Renaissance France, the story follows Danielle de Barbarac (a fresh-faced Drew Barrymore) who lives with her stepmother Rodmilla de Ghent (played to perfection by Angelica Huston) and two stepsisters. The story is very close to the original Cinderella tale except for the fact that Danielle meets her Prince before the Ball (no spoilers here, I promise). What is so fantastic about the film is that it has something for everyone – romance, drama, comedy and action of some sort. It is on a similar vein to one of my other much-loved films The Princess Bride (are you sensing a theme here!).
Ever After (Andy Tennant, 1998)
Gone are the mice and pumpkins and instead the film is truly as historically accurate as it can be. Within this framework, there are the traditional characters of Cinderella and the Prince but also historical references to Leonardo Di Vinci (who takes on the role of the fairy godmother), the New World, the Reformation and the French Revolution. It is probably because of the film’s historical thread that I have chosen to study history at university. While at age seven, I did not understand much about the historical context of the film, as I have grown older I have come to recognise that the film’s layers of history it is one of the reasons that I adore the film as much as I do: you can watch it over and over and still find new references to the past. It is both intriguing for the young and old.
Even in light of the recent Disney adaption of Cinderella (2015), I would always pick Ever After over it, every time. While Ever After might be historical, it is not whimsical. It is not filled with dramatically extravagant characters or costumes. It is authentic and the characters feel tangible, like real-life historical figures, rather than being made up, constructed for a children’s story. This is probably because Ever After’s Cinderella is not made to be a damsel-in-distress nor is she chasing after her prince. The character acts like she is the ultimate sixteenth century heroine. Barrymore’s Danielle is a strong-willed character who is not afraid to speak her mind in a society where she has little opportunity to do so. What is wonderful about Danielle is her intelligence, depth and stubborn personality – characteristics virtually never seen in the Disney versions of the tale. She is often at battle with her Prince rather than conforming to her role and position within society. Remarkably, this is one of the reasons why the film is now considered a post-feminist interpretation of the classic story. Remarkably, the film has been considered as a post-modern feminist interpretation of the classic tale. Ever After is not only a brilliant reworking of a classic tale; it has become a cult classic and launched the film careers of many well-respected actors (Drew Barrymore, Dougray Scott). Now, as my own cousin turns seven this year, I’m excited for her to receive a copy of Ever After like I did at her age. Hopefully in another thirteen years she’ll still be recommending it too.
Ever After (Andy Tennant, 1998) Pictures sourced from Google Images.