Into the woods

The movie was a pleasant surprise for me. A fairy tale for grown ups .. written, directed, and acted by them .. for us.

Spoiler alert, the first part of the movie ends when the “earthquake” strikes. Everyone was all set to live happily ever after: Cinderella and Rapunzel had their Princes; the childless couple their baby; the Witch had her looks back; Jack was rich; and little Red Riding Hood was quite happy with her new cloak made of the Wolf’s hide.

There already had been twists and turns in the stories indicating this was a movie for grown ups. Self-deprecating humor on the part of the Princes; the blatantly sexual undertones of the Wolf’s moves on L.R.R.; Cinderella’s wise decision on the staircase; – and most of all: the changes in the relation between the baker and his wife, and the difficulties the Witch experiences allowing her daughter Rapunzel to be an independent woman.

The Woods themselves seem to symbolize the wildness and unpredictability of adversity and life’s challenges. The leitmotif of the first part of the movie, (which carries over more subtly into the second), is the wonder and mystery of how personal growth can be engendered by life’s challenges. Another big learning from going into the Woods: there is always so much more to learn, so much space for growth.

It’s in the last part of the movie that the Woods begin to symbolize more than life’s adversities. They symbolize life itself. Life – always replete with challenges and setbacks generated by external forces and events (mortality being one of them) and our inner temptations and contradictions.

t becomes apparent that in order to navigate through the Woods (Life) a code of values is needed. The creators of the film let us know that their code includes allowing and encouraging us to decide on our own values while also acknowledging our interdependence.

I found that to be a really grown up set of values, one not usually expressed in films. Usually good and bad are clearly delineated, and you’re not encouraged to decide for yourself what the “right thing to do” is. Another rarity in film stories is a story that stresses both the fate and growth of the individual, while demonstrating that individual growth is dependent on interpersonal and social context.

My goodness, I begin to suspect that a humanistic psycho -therapist somehow helped create this film. Well, one of those (myself) certainly appreciated it.

Oh yes, there is one more moral “Into the Woods” teaches us: stories are important for both adults and children. And each of us experiences that truth in our particular way.