Saturday, 7 June 2014

Maleficent - Is 'True Love' an attainable reality or just another heart-breaking fallacy?

Yesterday I had the joy of watching 'Maleficent' with one of my besties. Oh, before I proceed, please stop reading this if you intend on saving yourself from spoilers!
In my opinion, 'Maleficent' is yet another Disney classic; it retells 'Sleeping Beauty' from the villain's perspective. Maleficent is played by the flawless beauty, Angelina Jolie - who is striking in appearance and performance throughout the film. We get a glimpse of this supposedly evil fairy's past, exploring the reasons that led to the darkening of her previously pure heart and the resulting irrevocable, ruthless spell on an innocent baby Princess Aurora (played by the angelic Elle Fanning). It is a tale of many themes, all pertaining to the human nature. One such theme was 'True Love'.

I was honestly surprised! Throughout the years, Disney has fed many little girls the concept of 'True Love', implying that they ought to portray themselves as damsels in distress in hope that their Prince Charming would come riding on a white horse, to carry them away into the sunset to a land of happily-ever-afters. This film is different. It promises no such thing, in fact the characters mention at least twice that, 'There is no such thing as True Love' - a statement that is filled with despair, hurt and just sadness. That made me wonder if there really was such a thing, or are we just fooling ourselves...

BEWARE - here's where I might spoil a bit of the film for you! Maleficent casts a spell on the little princess that she'll prick her finger on a spindle needle and 'fall into a sleep like death', which can only be awoken by the 'True Love's Kiss'. The catch however, is that Maleficent and King Stefan - who were past lovers separated by betrayal fuelled by material greed - knew there was no such thing. However, as Maleficent watches Aurora grow and mature, she cares for and loves the girl - she regrets her impulsive spell and tries vigorously to revoke it, but to no avail. As the young princess lay helplessly asleep, not even awoken by a prince's kiss, I looked around, as I do, and saw that almost everyone around me was as shocked as I was. A remorseful Maleficent then speaks to Aurora through her tears, promising her the utmost care and kisses her forehead...and, yes you guessed it, the Sleeping Beauty wakes up!

Intrigued, I reflected on this twist on my journey home. The reason why it was initially portrayed that 'True Love' was non-existent was because the human heart - tainted by greed, lust, self-importance and hatred - is incompetent to express such a delicate, pure and sacred entity; the movie refers to this as the 'great evil in the world', and rightly so. Careful assessment would reveal that the human nature is only to blame for every war that has ever marred history. From wise Solomon to persevering Paul, we repeatedly hear warnings to guard our hearts, and not be led by the desires of the flesh, why so? Our hearts, whether we want to admit it or not, are storehouses of everything sinful, with even the most charitable deed corrupted by a hint of selfishness. Many spend their lifetime searching for love, success or something that completes them, satisfies their inmost being but fall disappointed time and again because what they acquire is often incomplete.

As Aurora opens her eyes, Maleficent's servant Diaval exclaims that there is in fact something called 'True Love' - a scene where I could not help but reflect theologically! Maleficent, was Aurora's fairy godmother - the bond between them reminded me of our relationship with God. Apart from vengeance driven by hurt, the evil fairy had a pure heart, but God is the epitome of purity, holiness and all goodness.  The love that resonated from this pure heart was the much coveted 'True Love'; it was powerful enough to break the spell - how much purer, how much truer, the love that flows from the throne of God! God's 'True Love' is the truest of all, it led Him to the Cross and thus has the power to break the spell of sin that binds our hearts and human nature. What a beautiful but unintentional parallel! C.S. Lewis depicts this with great brevity, 'It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak...we are far too easily pleased with lesser things than Him'

I believe 'True Love' is a reality, but a reality that we are incompetent to express. Only God has the power, purity and credibility to express it and faithfully persist in it; we shall be disappointed if we pursue it elsewhere. Take heart however, for those who trust in Him are empowered by Him to express a fraction of this magical love as long as we live on this side of Heaven.
I hope I've given you some food for thought, and watch 'Maleficent' for yourselves to ponder further on related themes. Who knew a children's movie could be so philosophical!

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