{Movie Review} Entwined: An Alluring Dark Fairy Tale

Director Minos Nikolakakis’ debut full-length feature, Entwined, is a strange little film.  On one hand, it’s a dark fairy tale about a man who falls in love with a princess of sorts. On the other hand, it’s a haunting ecological tale. When both of these aspects intertwine, it’s a captivating work of art. At times, however, the movie stumbles to find its footing. That said, its poetic qualities outshine its flaws.

Entwined employs some familiar fairy tale plot lines. City doctor Panos (Prometheus Aleifer) moves to a remote village to offer his services. There, he meets Danae (Anastasia Rafaella Konidi), who has a mysterious skin condition. Despite that, it’s love at first sight. Both characters, however, are outsiders. When Panos asks the villagers why they don’t want him to help her, one of them comments that she’s cursed. She’s the strange and unusual one who’s easy to blame for whatever ails the village. He’s the city doctor/outsider who relies on science rather than faith.

Initially, even Danae distrusts Panos. Soon after she meets him, she states that she prefers a horse over motor cars and has no use for modernity in general. The film portrays Danae as a trapped princess of sorts, at least at first. A few center-framed shots show her clenching stone bars and glancing at Panos through a window, who returns the gaze longingly. He witnesses an old, brute man raping her (or at least he assumes that’s what’s happening). He’s the ogre imprisoning her, or so we’re led to believe. Panos is the one who must save her, the outsider and knight in shining armor.

From there, the film primarily focuses on Panos and Danae’s relationship and their complicated embrace of each other, a clash between the natural world and science. This contrast deepens once she traps him in her small stone house. At one point, she says she’s protecting him from an outside world that’s “monstrous and cruel.” Yet, despite his plea to be freed, enough scenes depict him as happy, strolling through the woods with her, forgoing everything about the modern world.

Photo Courtesy of Dark Star Pictures

In fact, the film would have benefited from exploring this inner-conflict he has a bit more. One of the film’s major flaws is that John De Holland’s script is weak at points, namely character arc. To add, it’s unclear what attracts her to him, compared to other men that she entangled. This question arises during the film’s last moments and the decision she makes. I was not convinced the film did enough to build to that conclusion and the tough choice she makes on behalf of him. What’s the source of her love for him exactly? What makes him different than any other man? That’s never quite clear, other than maybe the fact he cared for her when the rest of the village saw her as a monster.

Entwined’s cinematography works well to stress Danae’s connection to the natural world and her power over it. Wide shots show the dense forest surrounding her home. The longer Panos is with Danae, the thicker the forest becomes. At one point, she says, “Perhaps the trees didn’t want you to leave.”

Photo Courtesy of Dark Star Pictures

There’s also something beautiful about Danae’s longing for a sense of home. She snaps at Panos when he refuses to make their home something warm and comfortable. She has an obsession with keeping a fire constantly burning and crackling. The fire, she says, is the heart of the home. Cue the close-up of the fireplace with leaping orange flames, foreshadowing the ending.

It’s up to the viewer how to interpret Danae. Is she a witch? Should we blame her for trapping Panos and men before him, aging them prematurely each time she kisses them or embraces them? Or is she a lonely outcast, trying to exist in a modern world on her own terms, clinging to all that’s natural? She’s a far richer and starker character than Panos and the most enchanting aspect of the film. She’s layered, and in an era of hyper capitalism, it’s difficult not to relate to her in some ways. Who hasn’t pined for a simpler time? Who hasn’t questioned whether or not modern technology has really made us better as a society? Who hasn’t longed for a quiet area protected from environmental devastation?

Entwined may initially function as a dark fairy tale, a retelling of stories that we’re familiar with, but it’s more than that. It rehashes the debate about the natural world versus modernity, with a captivating female lead as the hook and anchor. The film fumbles at times with certain plot points and character depth, but it’s a solid full-length debut for Nikolakakis, who has directed several shorts prior. It will be interesting to see what he does next.

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