Making the Grades
Denmark's most famous author titled his autobiography The Fairy Tale of my Life. In this Hallmark adaptation of his 1855 work, the rags to riches story of Hans Christian Andersen is recounted with a little artistic license.
Even the death of his impoverished shoemaker father doesn't seem enough to awaken the daydreaming Hans (Kieran Bew) to reality. Believing the predictions of a palm-reading gypsy, the na0xEFve boy sets out to seek his fortune in Copenhagen. But fickle fate soon finds the young man starving and sleeping on the streets. Then a friendly smile at a pretty crippled girl named Jette (Emily Hamilton) catches the attention of her wealthy father. Moved by pity, Jonas Collin (James Fox) offers the awkward youth a home and an education.
Although his schoolmaster is harsh, the gentle sunshine of Jette's encouragement helps Hans' fertile imagination take root. As his storytelling talent blossoms, so does her love for him. Unfortunately, the budding author is blinded to her feelings due to an obsession he has for the famous opera singer Jenny Lind (Flora Montgomery), who once made a benevolent gesture on his behalf.
As the story of H.C. Andersen's life unfolds, the details begin to blur with the tales he penned. Slipping into reenactments, Jette becomes The Little Mermaid, Hans the prince, and Jenny his betrothed bride. Later, Jenny's cool reception of Hans' affection casts her as The Snow Queen. And his own reflection is seen in The Ugly Duckling, as the shoemaker's brat grows into an internationally recognized writer.
By having the same actors playing the various roles, My Life as a Fairy Tale's cleverly-constructed screenplay emphasizes the parallels between the classic stories and the life experiences portrayed in the movie. However, for young viewers and those only casually familiar with Andersen's writing, this technique may prove a little confusing. (My children only know the "happy ending" Disney version of The Little Mermaid.)
Parents may also be concerned with the inclusion of a few mild profanities, the depiction of bawdy street life, and some frightening characters within the dramatized sequences (such as the snake-adorned sea witch who cuts off the mermaid's tongue). Yet this poetically crafted film does a marvelous job of expressing the underlying moral messages found in these simple fables. Examples of love, self-sacrifice, and inner beauty abound, helping to explain the universal and enduring power of Hans Christian Andersen's legacy.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Hans Christian Andersen: My Life As A Fairy Tale.
When Hans is accused of only being a “shoemaker’s brat,” Jenny Lind confesses to only being a dressmaker’s daughter. What did you learn from their conclusion that, “It doesn’t matter a jot where you start out in life, only where you finish?”
To learn more about Hans Christian Andersen’s real life, check out http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/hcanders.htm