Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Magic Swan Geese (1949)

 I recently came across this darling little Russian fairy tale film, "Гуси Лебеди" (roughly translated as "Geese Swans") made in 1949. Although the animators have clearly seen the Disney films made up to that point there's a lot in here that Disney wasn't doing at the time as well.

The film is completely charming and a real pleasure to watch. It's extremely well crafted with what can only be described as "genuine" quality to it. The fairy tale aspect is very clear with this feeling of a storybook coming to life (I didn't realize it was a fairy tale film when I started watching but quickly realized it must be). One of my favorite fairy tale characters, Baba Yaga, makes an appearance too. Of course. ;)

Here's a brief synopsis of the fairy tale The Magic Swan Geese that the film is based on:
A couple left their daughter in charge of her younger brother, but she lost track of him, and the magic swan geese snatched him away. She chased after him and came to an oven. It offered to tell her if she ate its rye buns; she scorned them, saying she doesn't even eat wheat buns. She also scorned similar offers from an apple tree, and a river of milk. She came across a little hut built on a hen's foot, in which she found Baba Yaga with her brother; Baba Yaga set her to spin flax and left. A mouse scurried out and said it would tell her what she needed to know if she gave it porridge; she did, and it told her that Baba Yaga was heating the bath house to steam her, then she would cook her. The mouse took over her spinning, and the girl took her brother and fled.
Baba Yaga sent the swan geese after her. She begged the river for aid, and it insisted she eat some of it first; she did, and it sheltered her. When she ran on, the swan geese followed again, and the same happened with the apple tree and the oven. Then she reached home and safety.
While the film doesn't follow this plot exactly, much of it is similar. Enjoy!

PS There's an interesting little side journey into Russian film music that includes information on this film HERE. If you're interested in these tales or Russian fairy tale animation I recommend it. It has links to some other treasures too, most notably this little film here. (TWELVE BROTHERS/WILD SWAN alert!)

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