Once Upon a Dream

“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream
I know you, that look in your eyes is so familiar a gleam
And I know it’s true that visions are seldom all they seem
But if I know you, I know what you’ll do
You’ll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream

But if I know you, I know what you’ll do
You’ll love me at once
The way you did once upon a dream…”

Lana Del Rey

 
 

 
 

Once Upon a Dream is a song based on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky‘s homonymous ballet The Sleeping Beauty, more specifically the piece Grande valse villageoise (a.k.a. The Garland Waltz), that was written in 1959 for the animated musical fantasy film Sleeping Beauty produced by Walt Disney and based on La Belle au bois dormant by Charles Perrault and based also on Little Briar Rose by The Brothers Grimm. It’s the theme of Princess Aurora and Prince Philip and was performed by a chorus as an overture and third-reprise finale.

 
 

 
 

The song was covered by American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey for the dark fantasy film Maleficent (2014), which serves as a prequel to and re imagining of the original Sleeping Beauty (1959). Angelina Jolie handpicked Lana Del Rey herself to be the one to sing a version of Sleeping Beauty (1959)’s Once Upon a Dream as the main theme for the film.

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From the Point of View of a Villain

“God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

 
 

 
 

A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent, has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal – an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces a battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom – and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.

 
 

Theatrical release poster

 
 

On May 12, 2009, it was revealed that Brad Bird was developing a live-action motion picture based on Walt Disney‘s Sleeping Beauty (Clyde Geronimi, Les Clark, Eric Larson, and Wolfgang Reitherman, 1959), retold from the point of view of Maleficent with Angelina Jolie starring as the eponymous character. In January 2010, it was rumored that Tim Burton was to direct the film. Reports surfaced online in May 2011 stating that Burton had left the project to focus on his other upcoming projects; Disney began to look for a replacement director, with David Yates being cited as a potential candidate due to his experience with the fantasy genre, having directed the final four Harry Potter films. On January 6, 2012, Disney announced that Robert Stromberg would direct the film.

 
 

The character is Disney’s version of the wicked fairy godmother from the original French fairy tale, loosely based on Carabosse from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet

 
 

Maleficent (2014) marks the directorial debut of Robert Stromberg after serving as a visual effects supervisor on numerous films, including Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003), and more significantly, as a production designer of Avatar (James Cameron, 2009), Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton, 2010), and Oz the Great and Powerful (Sam Raimi, 2013); the first two films earned him consecutive Academy Awards for Best Production Design.

Angelina Jolie also said that “having a director (Robert Stromberg) coming from the world of production design really helped pull me into the fairy tale world. The film is beautiful but also has a sexy, dark edge because the story is coming from the point of view of a villain.”

 
 

By coincidence, Maleficent (2014) was released on May 30, 2014; precisely the same year as the 55th anniversary of Walt Disney’s classic Sleeping Beauty (1959)

 
 

Angelina Jolie worked very closely with Anna B. Sheppard,the costume designer and make-up department to develop Maleficent’s menacing look. Disney executives objected, hoping to take advantage of Jolie’s beauty in marketing the film, but the actress insisted that the character maintain the scarier look of the animated incarnation. Maleficent’s prosthetics and make-up were inspired by singer Lady Gaga, particularly on her Born This Way album cover.

 
 

Single cover designed by Nick Knight

 
 

Angelina Jolie based her character’s speech and accent in homage of the original Sleeping Beauty voice actor Eleanor Audley. Her laughter in the film was also based on the best variation she tried in front of her children and chosen by them.

 
 

Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, who portrays Princess Aurora as a young girl, is the daughter of Angelina Jolie (who plays Maleficent in the movie) and Brad Pitt

 
 

Angelina Jolie was definitely interested to be in the movie to begin with. She repeatedly stated it was because 1.) she grew up on Disney movies as a child, especially Sleeping Beauty (1959); she was quite fond of the character Maleficent: “Since I was a little girl, Maleficent was always my favorite,” Jolie said. “I was terrified of her, but I was also drawn to her. I wanted to know more about her. She had this elegance and grace, yet she was wonderfully, deliciously cruel,” 2.) she wanted to a movie in which her children can go see her in, as well as the fact that her children really also wanted her to be in the movie, 3.) the beauty, warmth, complexity, and strong intelligence of the script, and 4.) she was very impressed with Maleficent’s characterization for this film. In fact, Jolie also served as an executive producer on the film.

 
 

Maleficent marked the first time that Elle Fanning has appeared in a film opposite Angelina Jolie, after starring opposite Brad Pitt, Jolie’s fiancé, in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008).

The White Duck Beneath the Waves

The White Duck illustrated by Ivan Bilibin

 
 

The Russian folktale Белая уточка (The White Duck) also bears some resemblance to the story of Лебединое озеро (Swan Lake) ballet, and may have been another possible source. The contemporaries of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky recalled the composer taking great interest in the life story of Bavarian King Ludwig II, whose tragic life had supposedly been marked by the sign of Swan and who—either consciously or not—was chosen as the prototype of the dreamer Prince Siegfried.

 
 

Audrey Hepburn received a Tony Award for her theatrical performance in the 1954 Broadway play Ondine, directed by Alfred Lunt

 
 

The original Swan Lake was based on the story of Ondine, a German myth with a theme common in Romanticism that was adapted by Hans Christian Andersen for his story The Little Mermaid.

In that German tale known as Sleep of Ondine, Ondine (from Latin: Unda, “a wave”)  is a water nymph. She was very beautiful and, like all nymphs, immortal. However, should she fall in love with a mortal man and bear his child, she would lose her immortality.

 
 

Undine beneath the waves of the Danube. Illustration by Arthur Rackham

 
 

Ondine eventually falls in love with a handsome knight, Sir Lawrence, and they are married. When they exchange vows, Lawrence vows to forever love and be faithful to her. A year after their marriage, Ondine gives birth to his child. From that moment on she begins to age. As Ondine’s physical attractiveness diminishes, Lawrence loses interest in his wife.

One afternoon, Ondine is walking near the stables when she hears the familiar snoring of her husband. When she enters the stable, she sees Lawrence lying in the arms of another woman. Ondine points her finger at him, which he feels as if kicked, waking him up with surprise. Ondine curses him, stating, “You swore faithfulness to me with every waking breath, and I accepted your oath. So be it. As long as you are awake, you shall have your breath, but should you ever fall asleep, then that breath will be taken from you and you will die!

In Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Past Things, Volume II: Madame Swann at Home, the narrator’s girlfriend Gilberte is referred to as Undine: “… she assumed that vague air, full of reticence and kept secrets…like the Undine that she was…”

And Genesis’ 1973 song Firth of Fifth (from the album Selling England by the Pound) makes reference to Ondinal Songs.

McQueen and the Dancer

Flights of Fancy. Caroline Trentini wearing Alexander McQueen outfits from 2008 Fall/Winter collection. Photo: Arthur Elgort

 
 

 
 

Billy Elliot‘s (Stephen Daldry, 2000) original title was Dancer, but when they took the film to the Cannes Film Festival, there was another film called Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, 2000), which won the Palmes D’Or, prompting confusion; indeed, Universal Studios called the directors, producers and writer up and congratulated them. They then realized they had to change the name and settled (‘rather lamely’, joked the writer) on ‘Billy Elliot‘.

 

“Younger Billy (Jamie Bell) and Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters) are crossing a river. Billy plays a tape and they listen to the finale of Tchaikovski’s Swan Lake. This music has a yearning quality that suits Billy’s quest to move into the world. A policeman sits behind them as Mrs. Wilkinson tells the story of Swan Lake. The policeman is a reminder that the wide-spread concern of Billy’s community is still in the background and has yet to actively impact his move into a new world. The story of Swan Lake is a tale of the less powerful person being subject to stronger forces. The “heroes” of Swan Lake do manage to escape the forces that strive to overpower them, which suggests that Billy will do the same. The music reaches a crescendo as Billy looks up to the powerful frame overhead.”

 

The final scene of the film Billy Elliot shows the lead character, Billy, played by Adam Cooper, as an adult about to perform in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake as the lead Swan.

 
 

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Ballet (1995). The plot of the ballet revolves around a young crown prince, his distant mother, and his desire for freedom, characterized by a beautiful swan. This scenario is an unofficial interpretation as Matthew Bourne does not believe in scenarios for his productions and prefers the audience to interpret the story for themselves.The ballet is based loosely on the Russian romantic ballet Swan Lake, from which it takes the music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is taken along with the broad outline of the plot. Stylistic inspiration also came from the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds. The ballet is particularly known for having the parts of the swans danced by men rather than women. According to Bourne, “The idea of a male swan makes complete sense to me. The strength, the beauty, the enormous wingspan of these creatures suggests to the musculature of a male dancer more readily than a ballerina in her white tutu.”