When you first hear “Sofia Coppola” and “The Little Mermaid” in the same sentence, you don’t immediately think perfect match. So when it was announced earlier this month that the acclaimed director Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation) would be taking on the live action version of the Disney classic, the news was met with mixed feelings. However, once you understand the true, dark, mystery of Hans Christian Anderson’s original fairy tale you’ll see that Coppola is the only lady who could do this story justice.
SPOILER ALERT: The original Hans Christian Anderson tale goes down like this: At the age of 15, a mermaid princess is allowed to swim to the surface of the water and take a gander at what lies above the surface. She falls in love with a prince she sees on a ship, and saves this guy from drowning when his boat sinks, and she then delivers him to shore without him ever knowing she was there. The little mermaid goes to a sea witch for help where she trades her beautiful voice for legs, which “stab like knives with every step she takes.” She will only obtain a human soul if she can receive true love’s kiss, and so she goes to meet the prince who is immediately entranced by her beauty and grace. She dances for him, despite suffering excruciating pain, which causes her feet to bleed. Despite all this pain and suffering, the prince marries a princess from the neighboring kingdom.
All this might sound similar to the Disney story until we get up to this part: the little mermaid is in despair when one of her sisters brings her a knife from the sea witch and informs her that if she slays the prince and lets his blood drip on her feet, she will become a mermaid again and live her full life. She goes to the prince but finds that she cannot kill him, and she throws herself to the sea as dawn breaks, and the little mermaid dissolves into sea foam.
Now if that story doesn’t hurt your heart I don’t know what will. That’s why the director of such beautifully tragic female-driven stories as The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette is perfect to tell this magical yet bleak story of a broken heart. The film has reportedly been passing through the hands of a few of Hollywood’s greatest, including Atonement’s Joe Wright and the original screen writer Abi Morgan of Shame. Morgan says the story was "so beautiful and exquisite and painful, so we absolutely have to have the original ending."
Caroline Thompson, also known for her mythical heartbreaking work on Edward Scissorhands, has been called to help write the script, and I for one am thrilled to see this powerhouse of female masterminds working on a blockbuster project together. It is not only important that women work together on big studio projects like this one, but in the wrong hands, this story could become just another damsel in distress tale. After seeing what Sofia Coppola has done in the past with flawed female protagonists that still grab an audience and pull at their heartstrings, The Little Mermaid seems to be in home at last.
Photos Courtesy of: Matt Sayles/Wikipedia, Getty Images, Rex Features, and E. Stuart Hardy