5 Films Inspired By the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales (Red Riding Hood)

Before you read this article, you can read the first part of the list dealing with films based on the fairy tales Snow White and Sleeping Beauty 

 

 4. Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (Hiroyuki Okiura, 1999) We Are Wolves Disguised As Men

Inspired by the fairy tale Red Riding Hood

 

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is a Japanese animated film; the screenplay was written by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In the Shell). It is set in the 1950s Japan and portrays an alternate history of riots which ocurred due to harsh economic conditions. Rioters are organized in a terrorist group called “The Sect” and are using children and women to transfer explosives. Since the Japanese are not allowed to have their own armed forces and a centralized police force, a paramilitary organization called the Kerberos Panzer Corps is organized to confront the rioters. They are equipped with a menacing heavy armor and heavy machine guns. They can remind of the infamous Kenpeitai, a military police organized by the Japanese during the Pacific War, extremely brutal in dealing with the enemy. A member of the Kerberos, Fuse, is confronted with a decision whether to shoot at a young girl holding explosives, while they are in the sewers, and while he hesitates, the little girl detonates the bomb, killing herself and wounding the members of the Special Unit.

 

 

The first references to the Red Riding Hood, can be seen early in the film, when a member of the Sect gives a bag with explosives to a young girl, calling it a “gift for her grandmother. Thus, a gift is associated with something dangerous, and when compared to the Grimm Brothers story, we can see from the beginning that the film is an inversion of the original story. Fuse is disciplined for his hesitation to kill a girl with explosives, and meets a girl strongly resembling a child he could not murder. She is a Red Riding Hood, a name for children used by the Sect to perform mass killings. The Capitol Police and the Public Security Division, in the quest for dominance over the Special Unit, design a plot to discredit the Kerberos. They use the girl to get near Fuse, and try to set him up, making it seem that he received the explosives from a member of the Sect. In the film, a conspiracy within a conspiracy is created, but the thing which interests us the most, is the symbolism used to depict the main characters and their place in this design, a ruthless power-struggle. Jin-roh means “Wolf-man“ in Japanese, and Fuse is often depicted through editing techniques and the images of a wolf, as a devouring beast which is in fact inhuman. When Fuse meets his old friend from the academy, they are standing in a museum, next to a few taxidermic wolves.

The girl, a Red Riding Hood, whom he meets, gives him a version of the story of the same title, different in some respects to the Brothers Grimm version. The girl is made to wear iron clothes and hasn’t seen her mother in 7 years and can reunite with her only after she waears out her shoes/dress. In an impressive scene, showing Fuse’s dream, we see him in the sewers, a Red Riding Hood is running and Fuse is followed by a pack of wolves. In the same scene, we can simultaneously see Fuse murdering a girl with a machine gun, and a pack of wolves devouring a young girl while Fuse is standing and watching in shock. At the end of the dream, a lone wolf is shown on a hill, in the snow. This may mean that he is struggling to mantain his humanity, but murderous urges are too strong in him, the instinctual impulse of an animal trained to kill.

The film is abundant in references to the Red Riding Hood, it is often used to emphasize the nature of a member of the Kerberos unit, as being inhuman, but the story is complicated by the fact that the Red Riding Hood is also a killer, a terrorist who sacrifices her life killing countless others in the process. Thus, while the gift which a girl has to take to her grandmother in the Brothers Grimm story symbolizes love and generosity, the “gift” in the film brings destruction and annihilation. The Red Riding Hood (thus called as a member of the Sect, a terrorist organization) being murdered by the wolf/Kerberos, torn between the demands of his humanity, and murderous instincts on the other hand, gives the story moral ambiguity.

In the end, we find out that the Kerberos pretended to fall into the Capital Police’s trap, only to eradicate them when they come; Fuse carries out the deed fully armoured and relentless. The leader of the special unit says that wolves are killed by hunters only in stories humans imagine, and now it is obvious that Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is a version of the Grimm Brothers story in which the girl is not rescued, but killed, never to return. In the end, the Red Riding Hood is murdered by Fuse (her death can give the Special Police an upper hand in a struggle against the Capitol Police), while she is citing lines from the story and crying. A member of the Kerberos concludes: “And then the wolf… ate up the Little Red Riding Hood.”

 

5. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Jaroslav Jireš, 1970) Is this all but a dream…

Inspired by the fairy tale Red Riding Hood

 

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a Czechoslovakian surrealist film, a jubilant celebration of life. Its connection to the Grimm Brothers tale Red Riding Hood can be understood only if we explore the meanings attributed to the original fairy tale. According to some interpretations, Red Riding Hood is an allegory for lost innocence. The red hood symbolizes coming of age and a girl getting her period, and the wolf is a symbol for a man (a lover or a sexual predator) who takes young girl’s innocence. It is interesting that in the Grimm Brothers fairy tale, there is an additional ending which is not as famous as the story. In the additional ending, the girl learns that there is a Big Bad Wolf waiting for her, doesn’t agree to go with him, sets a trap for him by luring him into a well with sausages and finally kills him. This may mean that the Grimms envisioned the fairy tale as a warning for young girls to stay away from young men who try to take advantage of them. Red Riding Hood listens to her parents’ advice and follows the road which they envisioned for her, doesn’t stray away from the path.

 

 Valerie… is a coming of age tale which shows the dreams of a 13 year old girl after she gets her period. It shows the strangeness of sexual awakening and at the first viewing the film may be puzzling. Valerie holds the earrings in her hand and while sleeping, a young man named Eaglet takes them away from her. The earrings seem to symbolize lost innocence and purity. Valerie’s grandmother, after she tells her about the missionaries and sends to her to Church, tells her to take the earrings away. Symbols for menstrual blood are shown often in the film; spilled red wine on the table after a wedding, a drop of blood on a daisy in Valerie’s hand. When Valerie comes to the Church, she witnesses a pagan sermon led by a vampire, who tells metaphors for losing one’s virginity to young girls. The actors in the town are symbols for profanity, while the missionary symbolizes the sacred, which is soon replaced by the profane.

A debaucherous priest, a missionary, comes to town and speaks to Valerie about religion, only to force himself on her later, acting like a Big Bad Wolf from the Grimm’s fairy tale, he even has the teeth like a wolf. Later, he takes advantage of Valerie’s grandmother, a clear allusion to the Red Riding Hood. An ex-bishop and now a vampire, the Father, both in the Christian sense (a bishop) and a father to Valerie. He may represent the Big Bad Wolf himself, as he takes advantage of Valerie, and her grandmother as well (who longs for lost youth and sacrifices Valerie to recapture it – but Valerie rises from the dead, surrounded by yellow apples in a coffin). Despite its subject matter and elements of horror, Valerie… is completely in line with the Romantic formula of “childlike innocence”.

 Dos Santos writes: “An important aspect of the Grimms’ poetics was to show the childlike innocence of the fairy tale – going back to the times where the soul of humankind was thought to be new, guileless and pure.“ Valerie… portrays those times, ocurring in a dream. Eroticism, assenting to life even in death (Bataille) is particularly vivid at the end of the film, when Valerie is burned at the stake by the debaucherous priest, and makes fun of him while she is about to be burned. In short, Jireš’s film is perhaps the purest portrayal of Grimm Brothers vision of a fairy tale, a vision uncensored by the bourgeois standards of morality and propriety (as the original version of the Grimm Brothers fairy tales were due to allusions to sexuality). Thus, it is not by chance that Valerie… was made in a communist country, and this is a fine example of History ending up laughing at itself – fairy tales made in the Romantic Age were brought to life by a communist regime.

 

References:

Santos, Isabel. (2014). Reluctant Romantics – On the fairy tale poetics of the Brothers Grimm and their relationship to German Romanticism. Literator. 35.

 

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