DVD Review – Three Wishes For Cinderella

It’s always interesting when a film is a big commercial hit in one culture and in the other it’s considered an “art film”. The most famous example of this would be John Ford Westerns and Hitchcock films and how French critics proclaimed them to be these great cinematic works of art, which they are of course. Three Wishes For Cinderella to this day is a big Christmas favourite in Eastern European countries but is rarely seen in the English-speaking world.

As suggested by the film’s title is a retelling of the Cinderella story but it’s pretty far from the saccharine version we were forced fed as children by Disney.  It’s based up on the Czech version by Božena Němcová which is slightly darker than the tradition version we know. There is no father, just mean-spirited sisters and of course the step mother from hell. It’s also decidedly less magical instead of the usual fairy godmother Cinderella gets three magical nuts hence the three wishes in the title.

Cinderella is portrayed somewhat through a feminist lens instead of the boring version where she just falls completely into the arms of her prince charming. She pursues him and he pursues her equally which is refreshing take on the tale. Cinderella is much more feisty than usual takes on the character for example she is more comfortable hunting around in the beautiful Bohemian Forest with her crossbow than do traditional “girly things”.

The film was directed by Václav Vorlíček whose work is seems to have been almost exclusive in the realms of science fiction and fantasy. Sadly as typical of many Eastern European films made at time – his work remains extremely hard to obtain in English-speaking countries. His sci-fi comedy Who Wants to Kill Jessie? was released on DVD in the US so hopefully Second Run can follow suit in the near future. Typical of much of the Czech films of the period Three Wishes For Cinderella contains some political subtext about totalitarian oppression which comes here in form of depictions of the stepmother and sisters.

The transfer on the disc comes from a recent 4K scan which looks great, sadly Second Run haven’t released it on Blu-Ray which seems to be down only to simple economics. The disc includes a lengthy discussion on the film by Michael Brooke who is one of Second Run’s to go guys on Czech cinema. The set also includes a booklet by Tim Lucas which goes into even more detail on the film. It’s also a welcome return to the surreal and fantastical from Second Run which always tend to be my favourite releases from the label. Finally it’s also just a great film just in time for Christmas but it would be great for anytime of the year.

★★★★½

Ian Schultz

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