My Life as a Fairytale

In 2001 Hallmark aired a fictionalised film about Hans Christian Andersen, depicting him channelling his feelings and experiences into the fairytales that he wrote. The three-hour movie covers Hans' life interspersed with snippets of a few of the more famous and/or relevant of his stories, of which The Little Mermaid is one.

This snippet is highly abridged to just a little over ten minutes, and has been reworked to parallel the love and devotion of Jette, one of the women in Hans' life. While the other snippets are used to give insight to Hans' thoughts, The Little Mermaid presents Jette's point of view instead. In accordance with this some of The Little Mermaid's plot points are emphasised while others are cut, and Emily Hamilton plays both the little mermaid and Jette, while Kieran Bew plays both the Prince and Hans.

In the main story of the biopic, Jette is in love with Hans, who is in love with opera singer Jenny Lind (Flora Montgomery). Jette and Hans are close, but Hans can't see how devoted she is to him. Jette is also crippled and thus considers herself "imperfect", which lends to her desire to be "worthy" of Hans, the way the little mermaid wants to gain legs to be worthy of her prince.

As an adaptation of the original story, this one mentions how merfolk don't have souls but humans do, and that merfolk can gain a soul if a human falls in love with them. That said, the little mermaid's goal isn't to gain a soul of her own - she is more selfless than that, and only wants to love her prince and bask in his love in return. Another change is that rival princess doesn't wake the prince up after drowning. Instead she only appears later for the arranged wedding, and the prince's sudden love for her is framed as being so intense that he can finally forget the mysterious maiden who saved his life. This change calls back to Hans' callous rejection of Jette in order to pursue Jenny. Apropos in this case, the princess' responding smile is triumphant, almost even malicious, which ties back to how Jette perceives it Jenny.

I also want to highlight that this snippet keeps the bit where the sea witch cuts off the little mermaid's tongue as payment. There have been other adaptations that feature the little mermaid losing her tongue, but this is so far the only one I've seen where they're explicit about it, featuring the sea witch bringing her knife to the little mermaid's tongue, before the camera cuts away as the little mermaid makes a pained sound. This version also gives plenty of attention to the little mermaid's bleeding feet once she becomes human - the pain of being cut by knives with each step is literal, not metaphorical.

The design for this adaptation and isn't realistic-looking, but I think it's gorgeous and a wonderful callback to storybook illustrations. Like various Hallmark fantasy films there's judicious use of CGI to give it a dreamy, almost painted look, and the underwater scenes were filmed in a studio so that the characters could speak. The little mermaid's design is also very ethereal - her skin is glittery, almost translucent, so there's no way you can forget that she isn't human.

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