“The Little Mermaid”: Halle Bailey, Métis princess of the oceans and lands

May 24, 2023 by No Comments

The Little Mermaid ** by Rob Marshall

American film, 2 h 10

From The jungle Book by Stephen Sommers in 1994, Disney undertook to do new live-action filming (live action) of his main animated films, the opportunity to bring his classics up to date. For the most part, Rob Marshall’s film takes up the plot of that of John Musker and Ron Clements released in 1989, far from the cruelty of Andersen’s tale.

Controversy around the interpretation of Halle Bailey

Benjamin of Triton, the king of the seas, Ariel has a passion for humans. She collects a host of objects with mysterious uses found in stranded ships. A collection that she keeps secret since her father forbids all trade with humans, who killed his wife. While observing the crew of a ship, Ariel falls in love with Prince Eric whom she saves during a shipwreck. To find him on dry land, she accepts the pact offered by Ursula, the sea witch: in exchange for her voice, she has three days to seduce Eric with the appearance of a human; if unsuccessful, she will forever become Ursula’s creature.

That Halle Bailey, an African-American singer, embodies the character created by Andersen arouses an astonishing controversy: if no one thinks of stopping at the authenticity of Ariel’s scales and fishtail, why does her skin color should she upset? In this modernized version, Triton has seven daughters from as many seas (not to say “mothers”), hence the contrasting physique of Scandinavian, Asian, etc.

The essential ingredients of Disney’s first animated film

The new version essentially takes up the ingredients behind the success of the animated film: poignant love story, rhythmic songs, scary witch, amusing secondary characters, lively narrative, etc.

She nevertheless allows herself a few sidesteps to become more explicit, less disturbing (Ariel no longer expects a kiss from Eric as a pass to become human) and more modern (the film evokes the necessary overcoming of prejudices and, briefly, the consequences of human activities on the oceans). No feminist inflection on the other hand: the heroine, dumb part of the film, passes from paternal authority to the chosen one of her heart, by sacrificing everything to him without reciprocity.

In the underwater scenes, the camera follows the mermaids in all three dimensions with bewitching fluidity, whether they are dancing around coral or flipping from the bottom of the ocean to the surface. Visually, this aquatic world amazes even the undulation of the hair. If Javier Bardem, imperial Triton in the ocean, pales when he comes out of the water (briefly), Halle Bailey seduces as much in the seas as on dry land, where the intensity of his game compensates for his temporary silence. . A fiery actress, she is also a sensitive interpreter of the original titles.


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