Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Gospel According to Frozen

Our family came late to the Frozen phenomenon. We didn't see the film until it came out on DVD, and though we all loved it, and the sweet girl has come to love it even more after several viewings, our singing of those darn catchy songs came six months after most people got stuck on them. We've laughed over several parody songs and videos (my favorite may be "Do You Wanna Go to Starbucks?") and enjoyed singing the actual songs around the house thanks to a library-borrowed copy of the soundtrack. Oh, and fallen firmly in love with Olaf, of course.

S. ended up watching it again the other day, and I sat down to enjoy it with her as I'd promised. It was the first time in a while that I'd watched the whole movie instead of just snatches, and I found myself impressed again by the lovely visuals, the smart storytelling, and that great narrative choice at the end that shows the power of sacrificial love and pays tribute to the wonderful bond of sisterhood. (Just in case you're one of a handful of people who has not yet succumbed to seeing the film, I'll try to keep that vague.)

A couple of other things really impressed me this time through, however, and I found myself thinking "that'll preach" at least twice. Once comes in the reprise of "For the First Time and Forever" when Anna is in the ice palace talking to Elsa, trying to convince her that together, they can fix the terrible winter that Elsa accidentally set loose when she lost her temper and gave into fear.

Anna's sweet earnestness is so palpable here: she is just so relieved that she finally gets why her sister has been hiding for so long, and is sure that the two of them, standing firmly together, can find a way to make things right. She also has a touching belief that her sister is capable of undoing the damage she's done -- she's sure that Elsa will not only want to do the right thing, but that she'll be able to find a way to undo it. It hasn't fully dawned on her that Elsa not only doesn't know the extent of the damage she's inadvertently inflicted, but has no clue how to reverse it...and is more terrified than ever of anyone, especially her beloved sister, getting close to her in case she accidentally hurts her again. It's a powerful musical reprise, with the two of them singing together but once again showing in their words how far apart they are. Anna sings her sweet assurance, while Elsa sings her despair, ending on the crushing clashing words "I CAN'T!"

It's those words that give me shivers every time; they come from such a deep place of fear, and accompany Elsa's unintentional unleashing, yet again, of crushing hurt. And yet there's freedom in the words too, when you think about it. In emotional and spiritual terms, this is where Elsa pretty much hits rock bottom -- she's completely at the end of herself, and there's nowhere to go here but up. Yes, things get crazier later on, mostly when she's threatened by the usurpers who see her struggles as their opportunity to cash in and make a power grab, but there's something almost more freeing in this "I can't" moment than in anything in the "Let it Go" song, when Elsa is re-learning the joy of the creative powers of her gifts, but reaching the firm conclusion that the only way to be free is to shut herself off from everyone else in case she loses control again.

The other bit I never noticed came ever earlier, when Elsa first accidentally hurts Anna when they're children. She is devastated that their joyful playtime turned frightening and that her attempts to save Anna from injury actually ended in hurting her. When her parents take Anna to the trolls for healing, the head troll makes the comment that he can help her because it's only her head that's received the freezing jolt, not her heart. Cold minds and thoughts, as it turns out, are not good, but they're somehow still on the surface, far easier to heal than frozen hearts. I love this insight: that it's the heart that matters the most. At the root, it a heart problem that needs help and healing we cannot provide for ourselves, and only true love (sacrificial, deep, real true love) can ever fix a damaged heart.

Yup. That'll preach.


Erin said...

Yep, definitely some good stuff in Frozen! One of the most effective films showing the power of love over the power of fear, I think. Tangled and Monsters, Inc. also handle that theme very nicely.

I think "Let It Go" resonates with so many people because it's about breaking free from repression; so many people spend so much time hiding parts of who they are; you do that too long and a meltdown like what happened to Elsa at her coronation is almost inevitable. But that's just the first step; the key is finding a healthy balance between feeling free to be yourself while living in community with others. So there is still some degree of control involved, but it's not just totally bottling everything up.

I love the way this movie celebrates sisterhood, too. Even at their most contentious, the love between Elsa and Anna runs so deep. One of the sweetest kinds of love!

Beth said...

Yup! The sister bond is what makes this film really special, I think. I love how they come oh so close to giving us the version of saving "true love" that we've come to expect, and then wham! give us something deeper than romance. It's not often I am thankful that an animated film gets something so right. :)

"Let It Go" is powerful in its way (and beautifully performed, of course) but agreed, just the first step. She's relieved, but she's still got so much to learn about how to actually harness her gift and use it for good. But that first step can be an important one, especially for those of us with a tendency to bottle things up!