What I Took From Into The Woods
When I was younger I had this friend who was obsessed with films like The Sound of Music, Oliver, Annie and Mary Poppins. She tried to make me watch them but I didn’t find them very interesting, and so regretfully I grew up adamant in the belief that musicals were just not for me. Well I was proved wrong a few years back when I went to see Sweeney Todd (because I like Johnny Depp and Tim Burton) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the songs and will happily sit and listen to the soundtrack. Last week I tried another musical called Into The Woods (which also has Johnny Depp in it) and the songs have been going around in my head ever since. Stephen Sondheim worked on the music for both Sweeney Todd and Into The Woods so this might be part of the reason for why I enjoyed it – well that and Johnny Depp of course.
I watch a lot of films and I’m often drawn to things that are different to what I’ve experienced before. I had no idea what Into The Woods was about and the trailer seemed to reveal very little. I just knew that it contained a number of different fairy tale characters. It isn’t your typical ‘happy ever after’ however and it didn’t take long for me to realize that this film wasn’t going to shy away from injecting the darkness back into those stories. Even so, there was also a sort of humour that ran through it.
Towards the end of the film I started to feel like there was a very interesting message behind it. Many of the stories we hear as children offer us black and white viewpoints and idealistic outcomes. I’d recently heard that perhaps such stories don’t really prepare us for real life. In real life there are very rarely any right answers and what might seem like a good choice for one person can harm another. This is a concept that I’ve come to struggle with as I’ve gotten older; I suppose it’s easier just to believe in simpler ideas such as right and wrong. Into The Woods demonstrates this idea by creating moral questions around the fables that we’ve grown up with. For every upbeat and happy song there is another that works against it.
There was a song in the second act called ‘Your Fault’ where the characters are trying to place the blame on each other for a situation. The witch then breaks in to show just how futile it all is for it won’t bring them closer to a solution. In a lot of situations everyone could be held accountable and none of the characters thought they were doing anything wrong at the time. There’s a song towards the end called ‘No One Is Alone’ that suggests that while your family cannot always guide you, you’re never really alone because somewhere, somebody will always be on your side. I also took from this film that while we may wish for a lot, things will not always turn out to be as perfect as we hope.
“People make mistakes
Holding to their own
Thinking they’re alone
Honor their mistakes
Fight for their mistakes
One another’s terrible mistakes
Witches can be right
Giants can be good
You decide what’s right
You decide what’s good.”
That’s the best that I can try to explain this without giving away too many spoilers. There’s an article ‘Into The Woods Has Always Been For Adults, Not Children‘ that does a much better job of providing an explanation than I just did.
I love it when I’m left surprised by something like this. Out of all the films I’ve been to see recently this is the one I was the least sure about, but it is probably the experience that has stuck with me the most. Now perhaps I should give some other musicals a try.