She’s swaying softly to her heart’s delight

Vladimir Bychkov’s Russian adaptation of Hans Christen Anderson’s The Little Mermaid is such a simplistically charming cinematic piece. From beginning to end a viewer is captivated by the beauty of the mermaid and the world in which the film is set. The colour palette, music, costumes and camera shots all help to make it a magical and sweet-lipped film.

Just as the legends of mermaids tell of their being seductive temptresses, Rusalochka is herself an almost hypnotic presence throughout the course of the film due to her naivety and beauty. In the sequence following the opening when viewers are transported into the world of the fairytale, the expansive underwater shots of the mermaids are mesmerising and eerie. The viewer is drawn in by the fluidity of the mermaids’ motions and the delicate music that resembles a lullaby. The dreamlike quality of it combined with the soft turquoise palette help to visualise the imaginative world of myths and legends.

The repetition of the jingling music, the close-up shots of Rusalochka’s face with her hypnotic blue eyes, her soft voice and her delicate movements all help to enhance this fantastical tale. After her change from mermaid into girl her cautiousness on her newly appeared legs is enthralling and much later in the film the dance scene at the palace with her lightness of step is mesmerising. The allure of her character makes the film heart-warming, fully capturing the beauty of the original fairytale. Her blue dress symbolises the world below water from which she originates with the floaty fabric and oceanic patterning helping to combine both worlds just as the film aims to blur the barrier between human and mermaid life.

Rusalochka,1976

The tragic scene at the end of the film in which she is mourning over the dead prince touches the viewer just as any classic tragedy might, due to the delicacy of her tears and her ultimate helplessness and fragility in the face of death. The original story tells of how mermaids live for hundreds of years before ultimately disappearing amongst the froth of the sea, ceasing to exist. Thus her inexperience of death is emotionally powerful. When life is breathed magically into the prince once more Rusalochka, as destined, fades away becoming a mere spectral figure echoing the witch’s words from the start that ‘you will never die. You will live eternal like a dream’. Bychkov beautifully captures the hypnotic nature of mermaids in this classic fairytale with the closing image of her fading body leaving viewers to contemplate the heavenly world that her soul has been released into; one in which we ourselves await in death.

What inspired me: How the simplicity of the film itself with the minimalistic camera shots and angles still works extremely effectively, creating a beautiful film.

Originally published 6th October 2012