A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 291 – Jack Frost (Morozko)

Jack Frost (Morozko) – December 16th, 2010

This movie is one we purchased specifically for this project. We didn’t own it when we started and we weren’t planning on buying it. But when we started this whole thing and started to really consider what it was that we were going to be watching, we added some titles. We’d seen this as an MST3K episode before. It’s one of our favorites. And I’d read a few things online from MST3K fans who also had fond memories of this movie being a childhood favorite in Finland and Russia around Christmas time. It wasn’t really all that hard for us to convince each other that we needed to find a copy of this and add it to our collection for Christmas.

We’ve always rather liked this movie, even with the jokes made at its expense. It’s not that it’s a bad movie. It’s that it’s got a lot of silliness and it’s from the 1960s and has dated special effects. It’s a folktale at its heart, and I can’t fault the story or the acting or the special effects. To be quite honest, I find it all charming in the same way I find any of my own childhood favorites charming and I can totally see why this would captivate a kid.

My biggest criticism, really, is the rhyming. From what we could tell, the original Russian does have a rhyming cadence to a lot of the lines, and that’s fine. For a fairy tale that’s not entirely unheard of and I can see how it would work. Unfortunately, the subtitling tried to follow suit. Now, I have done poetic translation. It’s not easy at all, because you have to decide if you want to sacrifice something. You have to be really good to maintain everything in a poetic translation. The rhyme scheme, if there is one, the meter, the mood. It’s hard to put it all in a translation. Sometimes you have to sacrifice the rhyming to keep the feel and the point. And while we’re not dealing with an award winning piece of literature here there is a certain narrative that has to be maintained. The dubbed version used for MST3K doesn’t seem to try and force the rhymes. I noticed a lot of lines in common, but the rhyming was kept to a minimum. And that’s a good thing, because in the subtitling? It is so labored and so forced and so utterly bizarre in places. There are definitely words used just for the sake of the rhyme, not because they mean anything pertinent. I found it horribly distracting, especially since some of the worst instances don’t even rhyme in American English.

Rhyming issues aside, I do like the story here. It’s got a few convoluted bits, but for the most part it’s a solid story with some very familiar elements. There’s a bit of Cinderella and a bit of Hansel and Gretel, there’s Baba Yaga and there’s some themes of humility and kindness. There are two major players in the story: Nastenka, a girl living with her father, stepmother and stepsister. Of course the stepmother is mean and favors her own daughter, ordering Nastenka around and threatening to chop off her beautiful braid. And then there’s Ivan, a boastful young man who leaves his home to seek his fortune and the girl of his dreams. Ivan runs into Grandfather Mushroom, whom he offends. When he meets Nastenka later and offends her too he ends up turned into a bear by Grandfather Mushroom. Ivan runs off and Nastenka is left to be banished to the woods by her stepmother. But all is not lost! Thanks to her kind nature she befriends Jack Frost, who takes her to his home and promises all will be okay. Ivan, on the other hand, has to break the curse and then find Baba Yaga to help him save Nastenka.

It’s the end where it gets a little convoluted, with Ivan turning into a bear and Nastenka getting taken in by Jack Frost and the whole Baba Yaga encounter that eventually leads to Nastenka and Ivan being attacked by bandits. But when watching the movie it’s not hard to follow. It’s just a lot to explain. That’s not a bad thing, really. It’s kind of nice to see a story that’s not oversimplified but still isn’t confusing. There are some bits that aren’t terribly well fleshed out, and Ivan manages to break the curse not by doing a good deed as he was told to, but by intending to do a good deed, which is an odd lesson to impart. But for the most part it’s simply a fun story. It would be kind of interesting to see it made now, but there’s definitely a charm to it as it is and I’m glad we have it.

December 16, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Pope had the same problem with the Iliad.

    Comment by Doc Wheat | December 17, 2010 | Reply

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