Friday, November 25, 2011

"Tři oříšky pro Popelku" or "Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella"


Germany may have been home to the Grimm brothers, but the fairy tales they collected grew in both Czech and German lands. Like regional recipes, these stories share common ingredients if not a common language, more similar to each other than to the saccharine sweets whipped up by Disney. Three Hazelnuts for the Ash Girl,* or, as you might know it, Cinderella, is one such tale, and the clip above** shows the first scene from a famous retelling of that story.

Famous in central Europe, that is, especially around Christmas time. Produced in 1973 in Czechoslovakia and Eastern Germany, and distributed in both Czech and German, Tři oříšky pro Popelku has turned into a Christmas classic, broadcast each year in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Switzerland and Norway. We saw it for the first time in Switzerland a few years ago, and now watch it in German there, and in Czech at home.

What makes this a Cinderella story to add to your calendar? The score certainly helps, and the scenery - forest shots in real snow, a squalidly real manor house, one of the more picturesque castles in eastern Germany. The dialogues work as well, batted back and forth by a comic cast of characters who breathe life into an old story flattened by familiarity.

But that's not why it's so re-watchable. I'd give credit to a script twist that turns Cinderella into a strong role to play and to the actress who plays her - Libuše Šafránková. It is the beautifully clever face of Popelka as she rises from the ashes, defies the usurpers who have taken over her home, and wins her prince and freedom that makes this a Czech fairy tale to remember, and to watch again, come Christmas.

* Tři oříšky pro Popelku, also known as Three Gifts for Cinderella in the UK, Three Wishes for Cinderella in the US and Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel in German.

** Dubbed into English and shown on the BBC years ago. You can watch the complete movie on Youtube in English, but the sound quality is much better on DVD.

9 comments:

Lucy said...

Gosh, I remember seeing this in my teens on English tv and being really charmed by it, she was so lovely! There were lots of Mitteleuropean dramatised folk tales on the telly around that time for a few years, the most notorious being 'The singing ringing tree' which terrified a whole generation.

Good to know this one's had such a long afterlife and that I might even get to see it again, I'll check the availability of it in Europe with English subtitles.

Ellen said...

And of course you know my answer. In Switzerland you can play 3 notes of the opening score and everyone can tell you the movie...

lizardek said...

This looks really great! I've added it to my wish list :)

Anonymous said...

As a Czech patriot I would say that it's mostly a Czech(oslovakian) film (I know you didn't wrote anything opposit, but I just want to make it clear. We Czechs are very proud of our many tv fairytales :-) script - Czech (František Pavlíček), director - Czech (Václav Vorlíček, score - Czech (Karel Svoboda), main song (Kdepak ty ptáčku hnízdo máš?) - lyrics by a Czech (Jiří Šteidl, music by Karel Svoboda), sung by a Czech (Karel Gott). Main roles played by Czechs (Libuše Šafránková and Pavel Trávníček),

most of the supporting roles played by Czechs (Vladimír Menšík, Dana Hlaváčová, Vítězslav Jandák, Jan Libíček, Míla Myslíková, Jaroslav Drbohlav, ...).

The NDR contributed partly financially and several of the locations were there.

The plot of the film is based on a version of the fairytale written by a Czech patriot (Božena Němcová) in the 19th century.

Anonymous said...

Please excuse my grammatical errors in my comment above :-)

Mary said...

Even though it was scratchy i ended up watching the youtube version - what a lovely thing

Barrett Bonden said...

Whereas I'm all for de-saccharining Disney one can go to far with fairy tales. Andersen being a case in point: the Tin Soldier melts at the end, the Little Match-girl freezes to death in a house doorway and in order to lose her tail the Little Mermaid must concede her tongue and inherit feet which hurt every time she takes a step (Just to bring everything to a happy conclusion her Prince marries another and the LM dissolves into foam.) I trust there's no overlap between the Czech stuff and Andersen. C. may be old enough for this stuff but I'm not and I got the details from the much tougher Mrs BB.

I was wondering whether, when you quote names and other words in Czech, you might phoneticize them (a big burden, I know) since otherwise my eyes, for one, slide over all those diacritics. However I see your comments include Cz nationals so perhaps we Anglo monoglots should for once be required to lump it.

marja-leena said...

Oh, how wonderful. I love the old folk tales, in fact I still have my worn old book of Grimms fairy tales in Finnish, which was such a beloved part of my childhood. I finally had some time to sit and watch this first episode and it looks charming and authentic without the saccharine Disneyism. I do wish we could see more European productions over here, but at least there is YouTube, so I look forward to watching the rest. Thanks, Julia, and I'm so happy to have you blogging regularly again. I have such fond memoreis of Prague.

Julia said...

Lucy - I looked and it does seem as if the easiest way to see it is through youtube.

Ee - that is very cool. I'll have to try that test on my Czech friends.

Liz - let me know what you think!

Anon - it is very much a Czech movie, which makes it dear to me.

Mary - I watched it all the way through on youtube too, just to catch all the language as I've only seen it in Czech and German before.

BB - fairy tales are often grim (think the Struwwelpeter series) but Andersen does notch his up! Also, will try to figure out the best way to handle the phonetics, I do know what you mean about diacritics being unreadable until they are explained.