As a fairytale, the ‘Cinderella’ story trope has been used countless times. Its been twisted, turned, modernized, authenticated, animated, live acted and of course, has been turned into a pantomime that you could probably find at Richmond Theatre next year. With a simple story at its core, the temptation to create a new take on ye olde fairytale is great but can’t always deliver on the ‘new’ aspect. Originally broadcast back in 2000, the Channel 4 version directed by Beeban Kidron, is both a familiar and rare beast.
In this version of Cinderella, the heroine is called Zezolla (Marcella Plunkett) and still grieves the loss of her mother; where as her father (David Warner) is more interested in pleasing his new harpy of a wife, Claudette (Kathleen Turner) and her shallow daughters, Gonril and Regan (Katrin Cartlidge and Lucy Punch). Zezolla is treated cruelly and made to work as a servant, while Claudette slowly poisons her father after she discovers that he isn’t rich. Zezolla’s only friends are the elderly butler Felim (Lesley Philips) and Mab (Jane Birkin) the mermaid like lady who lives behind a waterfall. Meanwhile the Queen of the land is frustrated with her ‘lazy’ son, Prince Valiant who won’t pick a wife, he’s not interested in love, love isn’t cool, he only likes cool things, until he sees Zezolla. Cinderella does go to the ball but her intent is to sabotage Claudette’s plans to find a new husband. While dancing older men away from her evil stepmother, the Prince falls in love with her at first sight. The two would be lovers share a precious few moments together before she has to jump back into a pool she fell out of as the clock strikes midnight. Just as all Cinderella stories continue, so does this version.
The world in which this story is set is slightly bizarre. With a mixture of periods, expressed through fashion and music but still maintaining a sense of magic and wonder. The fairy godmother role is given to the a mermaid like woman who lives in a cave behind a waterfall that only lets certain people through. Mab, doesn’t like people and is off handed at first with Zezolla and nearly doesn’t help her get to the ball. A contrast to the extravagant carriage and over the top dress with an assortment of animals turned into servants, this Cinderella seems to be new age and possibly on a budget.
As the Wicked Step Mother, Kathleen Turner is obviously having fun with the role she was born to play, its just a shame there isn’t more for her to do. She flexes her scheming and cruel muscles but isn’t given room to go further.
First broadcast on TV back in 2000, you can definitely see how its aged. Bringing back the nostalgic feeling of minimal CGI and making the most out of the few locations, making more of the costumes than the set design, the film is of its time but can easily be enjoyed and puzzled over for another 18 years.
Dir: Beeban Kidron
Scr: Nick Dear
Prd: Trevor Eve, Simon Johnson
Cast: Kathleen Turner, David Warner, Marcella Plunkett, Gideon Turner, Jane Birkin, Lesley Philips, Lucy Punch, Katrin Cartlidge
DoP: Aleksei Rodionov
Music: Jaz Coleman
Run time: 90 minutes
Cinderella is out now on DVD