What Big Eyes You Have…

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Catherine Hardwicke’s film version of Red Riding Hood remains firmly in the realm of fantasy. With soft focus cinematography, clever use of primary colours, lush woods, breathtaking landscapes and a pale Valerie, donning her red hood, the teenage marketed fantasy tale is as entertaining as it is enduring.

The ever alluring Amanda Seyfried reprises a similar role to that in Diablo Cody’s film Jennifer’s Body as an innocent girl caught up in a community governed by terror. In Red Riding Hood, the village is terrorized by a werewolf whose first victim is Valerie’s sister.

Werewolf hunter Solomon and self proclaimed protector, played with relish by Gary Oldman arrives in the village to hunt the werewolf following the initial attack. Valerie known as Red Riding Hood played by Seyfred is torn between the Woodcutters son Peter played by Shiloh Fernandez and Henry, a nobleman son’s played by Max Irons, son of actor Jeremy Irons. This love triangle so similar to Hardwicke’s previous film Twilight is further complicated by the revelation that the werewolf in its human form is one of the villagers, and more closely hinted that that person comes from Valerie’s lineage. Virginia Madsen plays Valerie’s mother and Twilight saga star Billy Burke reprises a similar role to Bella’s father in the Twilight series and is given much more character development as an actor as Valerie’s uncontrollable father, Cesaire.

Suspicion is cast upon the reclusive Grandmother to Valerie, a wonderful cameo by veteran actress Julie Christie. Solomon uses Valerie who can communicate with the werewolf as bate in a wonderful midnight fire-ringed offering, red cape and all.

All folklore aside, the sacrificial offering of a Virgin to qualm the evil powers that threaten a community’s livelihood is found in many ethnographic communities mythology and in the case of Red Riding Hood, the origins of this Fairytale are grounded in the hapless virgin being ravaged by the brutal force of nature, symbolic in the werewolf or its human male form, with the spilling of first blood thematically tied up with the red cloak of Valerie as a dazzling signifier.

In Red Riding Hood, Hardwicke’s emphasis is firmly placed on the symbolism of the Red hood, looking ever more dazzling against the translucent face of Valerie especially in the scenes shot against the white snow covered slopes and helped by Seyfried’s superb eye popping performance as the only maiden able to lure the werewolf to reveal its human identity.

Hardwicke keeps the action fast paced and there is an economy of dialogue, characterization and setting, which makes Red Riding Hood an entertaining tale all packed into a 90 minute of film.

Fans of Twilight will no doubt love Red Riding Hood, but most notably the tale is brought vividly to the screen by a director who understands the complexities of the teenage film audience, an age group so brilliantly tackled and explored in Catherine Hardwicke’s previous films Lords of Dogtown and the Oscar nominated Thirteen.


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