This 1976 Czech film is a highly creative adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen film, in that it does away with literal fishtails or attemps to make the underwater realm at all realistic, and in that stead uses dreamlike imagery and visual metaphors to depict the otherworldlyness of the merpepople.
This film spends an extraordinary amount of time under the sea. The sea king's empire is a full-on civilization with whole crowds of merfolk following its rules and customs, which include games, marriage practices, and the sea king's casual causing of shipwrecks in order to "gift" his daughters with human things. This also increases the stakes of the little mermaid's choices in two ways: she was to be married and become queen of all the seas, and the sea king is powerful enough take out his anger on the prince's country for "taking" the little mermaid away or help his beloved youngest daughter get her heart's desire.
It's almost a whole hour of this 1.5 hour film before the little mermaid arrives on land, and even afterward the sea and its king are constantly watching events unfold. In a sense, this film is about the richness of the world of the little mermaid, as it is about her giving all that up for the supposedly simple goal of telling her prince that she's the one who saved his life, not the dark-haired maiden. The sacrifice and sadness has another level of sadness, too, involving the little mermaid's mother.
Thanks again to Adam for letting me know about this film. He's the one who shared that this film was a co-production between Germany and Czechoslovakia (hence why there are two different audio versions) plus the actresses who play the little mermaid and the rival princess are sisters: Miroslava and Libuse Safránková, which is such a nice touch.
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