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DVD Review: ‘The Snow Queen’

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BBC Home Entertainment recently released The Snow Queen, a movie originally screened on the BBC in 2005. Just in time for the holiday season, The Snow Queen is based on the classic children’s story by Hans Christian Andersen. The project began as a showcase for the music of composer Paul K. Joyce, which debuted at the Barbican Arts Centre in London. The concert featured the London Symphony Orchestra, soprano Sydney Rae White, and actress Juliet Stevenson (The Secret of Moonacre, Mona Lisa Smile, Truly Madly Deeply) as the narrator. It was such a success that a filmed version of the concert was devised, under the direction of Julian Gibbs. The remastered version of the film includes 5.1 surround sound.

Gerda misses her friend Kay

Gerda misses her friend Kay

The Snow Queen's palace

The Snow Queen’s palace

The Snow Queen becomes almost a tone poem, as Joyce’s music tells the story of Gerda, who must journey to the dangerous and forbidden castle of the Snow Queen (Tiffany Amber Knight), who has kidnapped her best friend Kay (Pax Baldwin). White and Stevenson return for the film version; White plays Gerda, and Stevenson her mother. Patrick Stewart (X-Men, The Canterville Ghost, Star Trek: The Next Generation) joins the cast as a talking raven who helps guide Gerda on her adventure. There is minimal dialogue throughout, with the music and the acting telling the story.

The Snow Queen, with its running time of 56 minutes, has the feeling of an animated film, even though it is populated with real actors. The live-action scenes were all filmed in bluescreen, and the CGI fanciful and painterly sets and backgrounds added later. A disc extra about the making of The Snow Queen features the film cast and crew talking about the logistical challenges of blue screen and how they brought the fairytale to life. The other extra, besides the behind-the-scenes featurette included on the disc, is a Blue Peter short film about Hans Christian Andersen’s life.

The Snow Queen should be perfect viewing for a cold winter’s night, with Gerda’s girl-power quest and lovely soprano voice taking viewers on a fanciful adventure. Parents may even get more out of this highly stylized version of a beloved fairytale than their children, and be the ones who opt for repeat viewings.

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