This past Friday Suzanne and I went to see Maleficent. It’s the backstory of Sleeping Beauty, featuring Angelina Jolie as the title character, who first appears by name in the classic Disney version of Sleeping Beauty.
I will try not to reveal too much plot or any spoilers, but there are a couple of metaphysical lessons in this movie.
We first meet Maleficent as a young girl, a fairy who is a leader of the fairy kingdom. Across the moors is a kingdom of humans and the two barely get along. One day, a young man named Stefan comes into the kingdom and he and Maleficent become fast friends and fall in love. On her sixteenth birthday, he gives Maleficent the gift of “true love’s kiss” — but sadly, it does not last. His ambition to be king causes him to betray her.
The King wants Maleficent killed. Whoever can do it will be his successor. Stefan cuts off her wings and brings them to the King. He is anointed successor.
The years pass, and King Stefan and his queen have a child, a princess they name Aurora. (Aurora means “light”. It is also the name of the goddess of the dawn.) From here, much of the familiar story of Sleeping Beauty kicks in, but with additional wrinkles.
Seeking revenge, Maleficent lays a curse on Princess Aurora — that on her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger and go into “a sleep like death” that can only be broken by “true love’s kiss.” Stefan entrusts Aurora to the care of three pixies until the day after her sixteenth birthday.
Maleficent saves a bird named Diaval and turns him into a human. He switches back and forth at various times to be Maleficent’s wings. She also constructs a wall of thorns to keep the humans from Stefan’s kingdom from ever again setting foot in the moors. (The moors are also protected by some very strange looking creatures that made me think that some who failed auditions to be orcs and ents in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies found jobs at Disney.)
Every day Maleficent watches Aurora, to the point that when Aurora finally meets her, she identifies Maleficent as her fairy godmother. By this time, Maleficent has developed a real love for Aurora and is trying to find a way to undo her curse. Unfortunately, when she spoke it, she decreed that no power on Earth could break it. (It takes a power greater than that of humans and fairies.)
Eventually, Maleficent tears down her own wall and heads for the castle to try to save Aurora, but she is too late and Aurora is in the deep death-like sleep decreed by the curse. A prince from another kingdom arrives and he kisses her, but that doesn’t do the job. Eventually, however, the right kiss arrives and she awakes.
Meanwhile, Stefan is trying to kill Maleficent. There is a great battle, Maleficent turns Diaval into a dragon, but they’re trapped. However, Aurora has been poking around the castle and comes on the display case where Maleficent’s wings are stored. She breaks it, the wings fly in, the day is saved.
What do we draw from this story?
First, the power of love. It takes true love to awaken Aurora and it takes true love to end Maleficent’s desire for revenge. (She also realizes that Aurora may be the way to peace between the two kingdoms.) Their love for each other saves them both. The movie is a testament to the power of love to overcome the hatreds of the world. Love overcomes revenge and causes Maleficent to release it.
Second, we see that only you can tear down your walls. No one can do it for you. And as long as those walls stand, you cannot let anyone in. That cuts you off from the world. Breaking down those walls is essential for love to flourish.
All in all, a lovely afternoon well spent.