Friday, November 6, 2009
My Life As A Fairytale: Hans Christian Andersen
Synopsis: A fictionalized account of the young life of Hans Christian Andersen, a young man with a penchant for storytelling but struggles to find his place in the world and gain the affection of the woman he adores. Interspersed throughout are brief interludes of the stories that will make Hans famous (The Nightingale, The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen to name a few), which are intertwined with the events that surround his own life.
My family and I happened upon this little gem by chance the other night using our free movies from Video On Demand. Knowing little beyond that it was a Hallmark movie and about Hans Christian Andersen, we started in to watch and enjoyed every moment of this two and a half hour film. The credits at the beginning made me giggle as I saw names of period actors flash across the screen: Geraldine James, Alison Steadman, Edward Fox, Hugh Bonneville.
Starring newcomer actor Kieran Bew as Mr. Andersen the story follows the famous story teller from his base beginnings growing up with a cobbler father and laundress mother. When his father dies teen aged Hans Christian must make his own way in the world and sets out for Copenhagen with little but the clothes on his back.
Our hero soon meets up with Mr. Collin and his two grown children Edvard and Henrietta "Jette" who take him into their home and give him many opportunities to better himself.
Mr. Collin first brings Hans Christian to meet the crown prince who offers to send him to school for a trade. Hans Christian is very firm that he doesn't want to be a cobbler like his father. Through a series of silly events Hans Christian meets the crown princess and charms her with one of his stories and she gives him her ring in return.
Hans Christian is soon sent to school to become a gentleman and has to suffer the rudeness of a professor who belittles his abilities. Alison Steadman makes a brief appearance as a music teacher at the school who finds Hans Christian very attractive and later appears as the Little Mermaid's grandmother.
Hans Christian comes home to the Collins well educated and renews his acquaintance with the lovely young singer Jenny Lind. With Mr. Collin calling him "son" and Jette and Edvard promising to call him "brother" he feels loved and content. His admiration for Miss Lind grows as he shares some of his stories with her, even one named especially for her: The Nightingale.
When Miss Lind goes on a European singing tour Hans Christian follows her to Italy, France and England. Jette follows him for a while trying to show him that he doesn't just want to be his "little sister", but he is unfortunately blinded my his infatuation for Miss Lind. In England Hans Christian meets the great novelist Charles Dickens who he admires greatly. He spends much time staying with Mr. Dickens, "Mrs. Dickens and all the little Dickens", and there are ten children. By this time Hans Christian has a couple books for his fairytales in publication and is becoming quite popular. He writes a song for Miss Lind that tells of his love for her and he gets to watch her preform it before Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
The Dickens family tires of Hans Christian after his five week stay and he heads home to Copenhagen following Miss Jenny Lind who is trying to kindly hint that his romantic attentions are not welcome. Finally Hans Christian proposes to Jenny and she has to refuse him, and he sees how foolish he has been. A gala is given in his honor by the royal family in Denmark and Miss Lind sings her Nightingale song for the last time as she has promised to marry her agent and will no longer preform on stage.
Jette is unfortunately absent at the gala as she has set sail for America hoping that a change of scenery will help her forget her love for Hans Christian. A very sad ending as the boat she is in catches fire and sinks, leaving no survivors. Mr. Collin tells Hans Christian how much Jette loved him and he finally sees too late that her love was always true. His fairytales live on as written proof of lost love and lessons learned.
I immediately looked us Mr. Andersen's bio on Wikipedia and found that this film stuck fairly close to his life story with few exceptions. It seems that Mr. Andersen came from the slums of Odense, but his father claimed to be related to the royal family. Mr. Andersen was crossed in love on all sides, no woman he loved returned his feelings (he did indeed propose to Jenny Lind). As far as Jette, Mr. Andersen is reported to have been in love with Louise Collin the youngest daughter of the family though she did not return his affections. He did meet and spend five weeks with Charles Dickens but Dickens' daughter stated of Mr. Andersen: "He was a bony bore, and stayed on and on." Dickens seemed to agree. Shortly after he got Andersen to leave he published David Copperfield which featured the the obsequious Uriah Heep, who is said to have been modeled on Andersen. Andersen himself greatly enjoyed the visit, and never understood why Dickens stopped answering his letters. He was a very confused man toward the end of his life, there's little knowledge of his faith but I did find this quote by him:
"Almighty God, thee only have I; thou steerest my fate, I must give myself up to thee! Give me a livelihood! Give me a bride! My blood wants love, as my heart does!"
A lovely film about the author's life, perhaps based on The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography but I'm not really sure about that, the title was at least. Beautiful costumes and settings, great acting, lovely fairytales woven throughout the film show how Hans Christian Andersen often used his stories to express his life and feelings. Mr. Andersen had a difficult life but rose to fame and left behind some of the best loved stories of all time.