Vibe of the Month: January & February 2019 – Sleeping Beauty

The Vibe of Month series takes the mood inherent to each month of the year – derived from holidays, events, folklore, astrology, and pop culture sources – and connects it to my personal experience for that month via film, fashion, and art. It was started as a way to explore how each season affects our memories, lived experience, and the way we consume art and entertainment.

I know this is super late, but did you also know that there were like a hundred eclipses last month? Well, two – a partial solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse. I thought there was only an eclipse once in a blue moon (har, har). As it turns out, they happen more frequently, they’re just not as noticeable as full solar eclipses.

One of my favourite astrologers, Annabel Gat (check out her horoscopes on Broadly), said that eclipses are a time to rest and let messages from the universe come to you. Eclipse energy is really potent and unstable, so trying to work with it is a recipe for disaster. You’re supposed to just see what the universe shakes up for you.

But also, the energy may be draining. And looking at how late this post is, I would say that’s accurate. I have been tired as hell. I’m dragging myself through the day like I’m dragging myself through these Toronto snow banks.

Does it take anyone else over a month to get over the holidays? I’ve been so sleepy that my vibe for both January and February is Sleeping Beauty.

I was very much a Disney kid and my all-time favourite film was (duh) Sleeping Beauty (1959). It’s actually really appropriate for this month’s vibe because the film was initially released on January 29, 1959.  

It has all the traditional fairy tale aspects – an evil witch, a prince, a dragon, magic, fairy godmothers – and while I’m not a traditional type of person, there’s something so pure about this standard hero story. I’ve always found the animation and art in this film to be some of the best that the Disney studio had to offer. The mix of medieval art with contemporary animation is such a striking combination and I’ve always found the film creatively inspiring.

The Disney version was the be all and end all fairy tale film until I saw Catherine Breillat’s version about a year ago. The Sleeping Beauty (2010) or La belle endormie is gorgeous, weird, slightly incomprehensible, but more relevant take on the old tale as it uses it as a springboard to talk about sex and sexual awakening.

In Breillat’s film, Anastasia is six years old when she succumbs to the sleeping spell. In her dreams, she goes on a long journey looking for her first love, Peter. When she wakes up, she’s sixteen and in modern society with Johan, Peter’s great-grandson, while the rest of her court and family remain locked in the spell.

The rest of the film follows Anastasia and Johan as they try and navigate their relationship. They are drawn together even though they never fully understand each other because they live in such different domains – all she knows is her 19th century dream world while he’s a very modern French boy. Their push and pull is best epitomized in a recurring scene where she asks him to unbutton her dress. He can’t figure it out because it’s so dated and she grows increasingly frustrated that he doesn’t understand her.

I never thought that anything could replace my obsession with the Disney film, but Breillat’s version is too dreamy, original and imaginative to ignore. While Breillat combines a lot of story elements from The Ice Queen to round of the characters and the action, her version of Sleeping Beauty explores the confines of gender and gender roles in heterosexual relationships, giving the old tale more nuance and relevance.

In the Disney version, Princess Aurora is more of a background character – things just happen to her and she sleeps through most of the action. In Breillat’s re-telling, Anastasia has a much more active role, although in the end she realizes how restricting the world can be.

In both versions, however, the focus is on women and punishing them for…just being born, really. In dreaming, both girls can escape the horrors of the world (as in Aurora’s case) or have more control and agency in a reality manufactured by their mind (as with Anastasia). But it’s only be being awake and engaged in a world that both princesses find meaning. Even if it is through a man.

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Freelance writer and screenwriter based in Toronto. Some of my favourite things include film, astrology, Lana Del Rey, David Lynch, and existentialism.

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