Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid (1836) has served as the inspiration for numerous films. However, the philosophy of contemporary narrative for children frequently clashes with the dark, tragic essence of the tale of the relationship between the daughter of a sea king and an earthbound prince, which does not have a happy ending. In that regard, screenwriter Ota Hofman and co-writer and director Karel Kachyňa decided to respect Andersen’s version. Nevertheless, the ending of their 1976 Malá mořská víla (The Little Mermaid) is slightly different to the original (in the film the unhappy mermaid turns into sea foam after being betrayed by her beloved prince, while in the Andersen she joins her sisters of the air and retains the hope of obtaining an immortal soul). The protagonist in the picture, which co-production with the Soviet Mosfilm lent a more cosmopolitan tone, is a mermaid who with the help of a witch decides to approach her beloved prince of the Southern Kingdom and become human, albeit mute. However, the prince falls victim to random confusion and chooses instead a princess from a neighbouring kingdom, who bears a resemblance to the heroine. The Little Mermaid has to accept her fate: she can only return home as sea foam… Kachyňa’s film is exceptional for its period not only due a gloomy tone at odds with the period optimism of movies for children and young people; it also has merit as a poetic, considerately stylised film that works inventively with the visual form of the underwater kingdom. Alongside the outstanding cinematographer Jaroslav Kučera legendary costume designer Ester Krumbachová made a huge contribution to the picture’s visual art qualities. Regarding casting, Miroslava Šafránková makes an impact as the sweet but resolute mermaid. Her rival from the neighbouring kingdom, who strongly resembles the heroine, was played by the actress’s sister Libuše. Radovan Lukavský impresses as the main character’s father the sea king.
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