Scottish mythology has always been the subject of great exploration by numerous artistic strands, whether in theatre, literature, film or television. Its incredible and unsurpassed Celtic range of characters and legendary creatures has spread through the centuries to the four corners of the planet and influenced subcultures and even urban narratives that managed to convey in an extraordinary way the primordial timelessness of the Anglo-Saxon people.
Getting to know the creative upper echelon of the studios Pixarand their incredible passion for universality, it was kind of to be expected that after delivering masterpieces like the ‘Toy Story’ or an epic and thrilling hero’s journey with ‘Up – High Adventures’the team moved on to something more historic, maintaining the undoubted magic of timeless audiovisual productions while looking to expand its unquestionable legacy.
The result was one of the feature films with intentions as pure as the story itself of the grandiloquent narratives of the people from which it draws inspiration. ‘Valente’, a title that already indicates what we can find in the Nordic forests and castles of yore, revolves around a young girl who goes through – or tries to go through – one of the most intrinsic and irreversible transformations of her life, despite the slips of her life. his production sometimes become blatant and take him away from the perfectionist tangency of his predecessors. However, the characterization of each of the characters, the scenarios and even the synesthetic atmosphere is something to be applauded by the team – especially if we take into account the “moral lesson” sought by the film.
‘Valente’ begins with a short prologue. Unlike other studio films, the narrative-visual preface enters as a historical basis for both the background of the characters and not of who each one is, since we are dealing with humans as protagonists. Here, we meet the ruling family of the Scottish Highlands, which is formed by Merida (Kelly Macdonald), Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Elinor (Emma Thompson). The three represent the famous royal trinity that populate the various clans of the United Kingdom’s own history, in addition to being characterized as such: while the family patriarch is robust and clumsy, the matriarch shows herself as a much more imposing figure to elevate herself. to the status as a queen, in addition to having a firm hand with her daughter to transform her into a “mirror”.
However, not everything is rosy for the family – after all, when it comes to mysticism, Celtic mythology is one of the pioneers in creating haunting scenarios for its characters, and it is obvious that ‘Valente’ wouldn’t stay out of it. Elinor and Merida strongly believe in the mystical forces that are in constant observance of mere mortals, and are bombarded by the staunch disbelief of their father, whose war training has turned him into a visible and clear stereotype of the millennial Welsh warrior, preferring to remain at the mercy. of the believable instead of faith. Everything follows a natural order, until one of the first antagonists of the film appears, in the gigantic and terrifying form of Mor’du, a black bear with the strength of ten men and who has long terrorized the lands where they live.
The last frame of this opening sequence is Fergus being attacked by the enemy, and the clash between the two begins seconds before the title entry. The most correct to think would be that this character met his end in the opening five minutes of the movie, but in fact he just lost his right leg, as we learn moments later. Now, Merida is a skilled teenager well-versed in the arts of archery, as well as pulling her family’s penchant for fighting. Her independence emerges on the screen when we see her riding her horse and running through the dense forest that surrounds her house, shooting accurately at the various targets scattered around. One of the main points to be discussed here is the way in which the script signed by Brenda Chapman values the connection between man and nature, even working on the visual conception in the dialogues and soliloquies given by the protagonist.
The inseparable organicity between the elements that we see on screen is one of the highlights of the animation: the work with which even the trees – all the species we can find – and the animals are outlined contrasts with the almost Renaissance perfection of human constructions. Despite the linear and well-defined personalities at the beginning of the film, each one has unique traits that transform them into archetypal idealizations for each of the human facets, whether in courage, rebellion, self-control or submission.
Merida followed in her father’s footsteps regarding the search for her identity, living her life without worrying about the consequences of her actions and becoming a bubble of isolation and protection from the outside world. Meanwhile, Elinor constantly watches over her, trying to turn her into a younger copy of herself by teaching her war tactics, etiquette, swordplay, reading and everything in between, passing on the knowledge she has garnered for years and years. that can finally now be passed on to the next generation. And it is here that the family complexity rises to another level for a few moments when discussing the age and mental difference between mother and daughter.
And why do I say that this somewhat deeper analysis is brief? Well, simply because family disputes between two family members constitute one of the basic themes of several feature films – to the point of becoming beaten and liable to rescue clichés of the genre. What is interesting here, and another point to be applauded, is how the narrative manages to transport this very contemporary theme and still seen in romantic comedies, for example, to the primitive and picturesque Scottish Orthodox “non-society” of the Middle Ages, in addition to placing pop culture elements in some hilarious dialogue sequences.
Things get more tense when Elinor announces in the middle of dinner that the alliance between the Highland clans must be reaffirmed with Merida’s marriage to one of the three firstborns of the other rulers, bringing a mixture of disgust and discontent on her part. After all, the protagonist never felt the need to establish marital ties, valuing freedom and her eminent ascendancy to the Queen, even if it broke the family’s traditions. The spark turns into ideological fire after Merida becomes one of her own suitors in an archery competition, facing her mother’s authoritarianism at the expense of reasserting independence. After that, the two have a “warm” discussion that results in a sudden break in the mother-daughter position, putting them on antagonistic levels.
GOOD NIGHT MOM
It is common in several adolescent narratives, and even in real life, that the distortion of the more traditionalist concept of family find its apex in a third part within the journey that is normally associated with the symbol of the false of the guardian or of unpremeditated outside help, loaded with symbolism that will act in the consequences of the following acts of the feature film until the main pieces find the so awaited epiphany. In ‘Valente’Merida embodies all these formulaic departures from literary classicism with a mystical touch as she rides through the forests of her kingdom until she is dramatically taken to a stone circle.
The archetype of this unexpected guardian comes in the figure of the Witch, interpreted by the always welcome presence of Julie Walters as one of the most charismatic characters in cinema. This character is a hybrid mix of an advertising professional and a grim know-it-all who doesn’t want her secrets hidden. Her scenic characterization reminds us of the Evil Queen of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937), with the pointed nose, the arched posture and the warts on the face; but its constructive nuances rescue punctual inclinations towards other comic characters, even Madame Mim (‘The Sword Was the Law’, 1963). However, we are focusing on its essential importance for the unfolding of the story and the closing of the first cycle.
The Witch, having no proper name for obvious reasons, is an elder, a sage, who knows from afar human despair and knows how to take advantage of the weaknesses of those around her for individualistic benefit. However, in dissonance with other “pseudo-villains” in the cinema, she does not want to use her powers to help Merida, but rather for her to go away and solve her problems. Despite this, the girl manages to convince her to help, creating a spell that will change her and her mother’s fate. But what she didn’t expect is that this change would be taken literally.
Perhaps this is where the potential glow of ‘Valente’ encounter obstacles and don’t know how to overcome them, preferring a safe exit over an original one that fully honors the studios legacy. The main narrative follows a chronological order that consists of just two days, but which becomes a much longer period for its predictability, including the discoveries made by the daughter and the mother – with a few brief and exceptions. Once she returns home, Merida hands Elinor the spell (in the form of a fruitcake), which transforms her into… A bear. It’s ironic that his literalness of request reached a cluster of future problems, including his father’s insatiable thirst to eliminate his arch-nemesis, who is a bear, and his devotion to his wife, who tragically turned into one of them.
The fading of such twists comes with the constant “homage” to one of the pantheon’s most lovable and timeless works – as far as premisses go. Disney/Pixar: ‘Freaky Friday’. It’s funny to cite this feature film that is not at all smug and manages to architect a satisfyingly consistent microcosm for the two main characters, who are predecessor retellings of Merida and Elinor. winning a remake set in the 2000s, the aforementioned film tells the story of how a relationship on the brink of destruction takes an unexpected hit when mother and daughter switch bodies after wishing for one to understand each other’s side. Of course, the protagonists of ‘Valente’ do not experience this problem, but none expected to be taken literally.
After setting out on yet another journey to find the Witch again, the two realize it’s up to them to mend the ties of their destructive and troubled relationship so that the curse is broken and order is restored. It’s easy to think of the solutions found by animation, including beats of constant maternal and hierarchical endorsement, but with touches of a modernity that we would definitely not see in another period film.
The unforgivability of the film comes at the end of the third act. Elinor and Merida are in constant conflict because they are essentially contradictory: while the latter is a spoiled rebel who does not accept that others delegate tasks or orders to her, even though she remains faithful to her principles and wants to find her place within a complicated family, the former seeks her inspirations in probable past generations to establish the feminine mark inside a society commanded by men. The idea was that the epiphanic turns would make her more mature, but the truth is that neither changes; the stay in comfortable cocoons finds a moment of relief before they re-emerge and bring an unacceptable outcome.
SING THE SONG
‘Valente’ It’s the studio’s first fairy tale Pixar and, therefore, undergoes several changes in relation to previous feature films. The slips are clear and make the work fickle and leave us irritated and at the same time with a taste for more, especially with regard to the superb mysticism of Scottish mythology, which really could be further explored by the script.
However, we must take into account that this narrative is much darker and more “mature” in the sense of heroic development, although it has not reached its full potential of films of the genre, placing it in an almost paradoxical equivalence to classic animations. A risky move and, despite not having worked very well, it even gets emotional – just not in the way it should.