Tuesday, December 04, 2012

hidden gem: the secret of moonacre

We stumbled across a little gem of a movie the other day, The Secret of MoonacreA true fantasy film, The Secret of Moonacre begins like a classic children's story along the lines of The Little Princess and then takes some magicl twists and turns a la The Wizard of Oz.

Based on the book The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge, the story begins when 13 year-old homeless orphan Maria Merryweather (Dakota Blue Richards, The Golden Compass) must leave London to live with her handsome but Rochester-like Uncle Benjamin (Ioan Gruffudd) in the picturesque but crumbling Moonacre Manor. The movie was filmed in Hungary, and the sets, costumes and locations are fabulous to look at. Director Gabor Csupo (Bridge to Terabithia) revels in all of the colorful surfaces and details, and the viewer will, too.

There is a family feud between the Merryweathers and their neighbors on the other side of the forest, the De Noirs. There are star-crossed lovers and a black lion and a Moon Princess who has cursed both families unless someone pure of heart can break the curse before the 5000th moon rises. Maria must sort through her family history and magic and mythology to get to the truth.

Maria checks out her new digs
Robin and Maria form an uneasy truce
Loveday shows Maria her fabulous underground lair
This all may sound a bit silly, and the movie can be just that at times, but with purpose and good humor. Juliet Stevenson has a blast as Maria's mostly useless guardian and companion, Miss Heliotrope, as does Andy Linden as the magical Chef Marmaduke Scarlet. Tim Curry could play the villain of the piece, Coeur De Noir, in his sleep, but he does it with a wink and makes the character more fun. Augustus Prew channels Clockwork Orange's Droogs for his bad-boy Robin De Noir, who may not be so bad after all. And Natascha McElhone is both lovely and wacky as Loveday, Benjamin's former fiancee.

Lately we seem to be seeing movies that we like which lead us to the books they were based upon, instead of the usual, other way around. After seeing and enjoying The Secret of Moonacre I definitely would like to read The Little White Horse with my daughter. It will be interesting to see if the sumptuous visuals from the film carry over as we read, or if we become entranced with the words and imagine a whole new set of images and characters.
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