(La Belle Endormie)

Dir. Catherine Breillat. France. 2010

Talking Pictures alias







About Us


In her second deconstruction of a classic fairy tale, Catherine Breillat has taken on the story of The Sleeping Beauty as first imagined by Charles Perrault in the seventeenth century. In turning the sweet children's fairy tale into a coming of age fantasy filled with sexual tension, Breillat challenges our conventional notions of childhood and asks us to confront our fears about growing up, a topic far removed from the banalities of Walt Disney animation. Like her previous work Bluebeard, Breillat's version of The Sleeping Beauty establishes the world of children as one filled with both terror and unimagined beauty. It is a world that is playful, erotic, frightening, and magical. 

In the classic tale, a wicked fairy curses a young infant girl by proclaiming that when she reaches the age of 15, she will prick her finger on a spindle and die. Unable to completely reverse the spell, one of the good fairies says that the princess will instead sleep for a hundred years until awakened by the kiss of a prince with whom she will live happily ever after. In Breillat's version, the infant is cursed by the fairy Carabosse (Rosine Favey) to die at an early age as three good fairies (Dounia Sichov, Leslie Lipkins and Camille Chalons) stand by. 

The good fairies cannot reverse the witch's curse but they can modify it, declaring that the girl at age six will fall into a sleep for 100 years and then wake up as a beautiful 16-year old teen. The girl, Anastasia (Carla Besainou), evoking Alice in Wonderland, looks for her love in dream sequences that fill the majority of the 82-minute film. In the vividly imagined dreamscape, Anastasia rebels against the notion of girls as princesses who are asked to be polite and stay out of sight. She declares that she wishes her name was Vladimir and discards her furs and dainty dresses. In the first sequence, one of the best, she visits a French family in a remote forest where she is lovingly taken in by a widow (Anne-Lise Kedves), then becomes enamored with her teenage son (Kerian Mayan) in scenes that evoke a world of innocence and purity. 

The boy, however, is lured by the mythical Snow Queen (Romane Portail) even though warned by his mother and turns hardhearted and cold. Undaunted by his sudden turn, the young Anastasia looks up the definition of the word puberty in the dictionary and then goes to search for him. In scenes of breathtaking beauty created by the cinematography of Denis Lenoir and the art direction of Francois-Renaud Labarthe, Anastasia traverses a world of magical trains, albino rulers, dwarf station masters, a knife-wielding gypsy, and enchanted animals. 

Although Anastasia says that she hates the world of little girls, she exists in a world of enduring childhood, all created from the dark imaginings and erotic longings of her mind which become real when the now sixteen year old Anastasia (Julia Artamanov) at last wakes from her dream and experiences loves from both a woman, Gypsy girl (Rhizlaine El Cohen), and a man, Johan (David Chausse), the great grandson of Peter. The Sleeping Beauty continues in the mode that Breillat is known for - exploring the world of female sexuality by using a fairy tale to encompass both the safe and the loving as well as the dangerous and forbidden, always threatening our comfort levels, yet providing a grand piece of entertainment.


Seen at the Vancouver International Film Festival 

Howard Schumann

Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
Site searchWeb search
   Home | News | Features
    Book Reviews | About Us