By Emelyn Ehrlich
A baker and his wife want a child. A little girl in a red hood learns an important lesson about trusting strangers. A boy trades his cow for beans from a mysterious, haggard man. A kind woman runs away from her prince. A witch holds a girl with flowing hair captive in a tower. Not to mention, the two hot princes. Everyone wants something. Eventually, they will all have their wishes granted. But will they like what they get?
Into the Woods was released as a movie in 2014. However, long before that, Into the Woods was a play. You can find it on Amazon for $2.99 if you rent it, or $8.99 if you buy it. With the current pandemic, I, like everyone else, am struggling to continue finding things to do. One day, while doing homework, one of the songs from Into the Woods, “Agony,” kept playing in my head on repeat.
Although it’s different for each,
Always ten steps behind,
Always ten feet below
And she’s just out of reach!”
And so on. Thinking about the movie made me think about the play. That’s when it occurred to me:
The play is much better than the movie.
There is one, and only one, reason why this is the case. There is one element that’s just a little different in both mediums that makes the play that much better.
The movie’s narrator is the baker. He tells the story in a voiceover, even as things continue to happen to him within the story itself.
The play is a little different.
Instead, the narrator is someone completely separate from the cast of characters. He sits in a chair to the side, unobserved by all of the characters, neutral to the story itself.
At least, until the second act.
The second act is when the giant comes to kill everyone. The narrator continues telling the story, as the characters slowly crane their necks toward him, finally noticing him for the first time. The narrator explains his role.
The characters promptly sacrifice him to the giant.
No longer being guided by the narrator, the story goes off the rails. Anything can happen. The characters become lost and confused, instantly regretting sacrificing the narrator.
Eventually the baker steps in as the narrator as he tells the story to his child.
That’s why I always thought the play was so unique.
It starts out with an omniscient narrator there to guide the characters and assure them that everything goes to plan. However, when that narrator no longer exists, the characters are forced to take charge of their own stories and guide their own fates. They are forced to acknowledge that they are responsible for their actions, and no one else.
That is a lesson the movie simply cannot recreate without the additional “narrator” character.
None of this is to say, of course, that the movie isn’t good. I love the movie; it’s great.
That being said, the movie will never be able to measure up to the play.
The play possesses something that the movie will never be able to: the characters’ sudden self-awareness that impacts them forever.
Edited by Ashley Ricks