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Saturday 9 May 2015

Cinderella - a Catholic Allegory of Redemption

Recently released, Cinderella is a film directed by Kenneth Branagh who allows the spiritual and specifically Christian message to come through in a clean and refreshing manner.

In Branagh’s telling of the story, Ella was the daughter of wonderful parents who instilled in her a keen sense of moral virtue. The girl’s childhood was interrupted by the illness and death of her mother who had taught Ella always to be “kind and courageous.” 
Kenneth Branagh
Her father remarried and brought his new wife and her two daughters to live with him and Ella.

Some years later, Ella’s father died while away on a business trip. Completely isolated Ella becomes the victim of her wicked stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her stepsisters. Ella, the beautiful and morally upright young woman  has lost her dignity and finds herself literally in the ashes.
Cate Blanchett
This image speaks to us of the Catholic teaching about the fall of the human race. Humanity was created by God; created  beautiful and in God's image and likeness, but through sin and evil, humanity has fallen and the beauty is obscured. 

While out riding in the country Cinderella encounters a magnificent stag that is being pursued by a hunting party. She meets the Prince of the realm who is hunting. He is handsome and kind and the two immediately fall in love. 

Cinderella returns home without identifying herself. Distraught, the Prince calls for a fancy dress ball and invites all of the young women of the realm to come, hoping to re-encounter the beautiful and mysterious young women he met in the woods.

Cinderella's stepmother and sisters try to prevent her from attending the ball but Cinderella, with the aid of her fairy godmother, manages to attend the ball where she meets the prince. However, she is forced by circumstances to leave the ball early. The prince seeks her desperately until he finds her and marries her.

This medieval Catholic Christian allegory is full of symbolism.  The stag is a traditional sign of Christ, the object of the hunt. His presence in the heart of the narrative signals his centrality.  The Prince, the son of the king, falls in love with a woman despite her low estate.  This is a clear reference to Jesus, the Son of the King.  Jesus became the bridegroom of the fallen human race which was hidden by the dirt of sin and the evil in the world.

The story is one of the love of the Prince who makes Cinderella a princess despite her fallen state. Cinderella escapes the slavery and oppression of her stepmother and stepsisters but instead of wreaking vengeance on them, she  offers forgiveness, emphasizing the Christian character of the story.

Few films each year are truly good as well as beautiful and instructive. This one is already a classic and something the whole family can enjoy.

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