THIS ICY FORCE BOTH FOUL AND FAIR
HAS A FROZEN HEART WORTH MINING.
So ends the first line of Frozen. I missed it, which is kind of a shame. It’s pretty meta in that it describes the narrative at large and recapitulates one of Shakespeare’s persistent juxtapositions. Don’t worry, though, I’m not going there.
I wrote about the crystal clarity of the final sequence last month. While I was writing it I began thinking about hardened, or frozen, hearts and wondering just how deeply the sacrificial message was woven into the story. A couple weeks later, the “What you missed watching Frozen” gallery drew my attention to “The Frozen Heart” and some of the ways in which it actually, ahem, scores the movie.
SPLIT THE ICE APART!
BEWARE THE FROZEN HEART.
Anyway, despite it’s importance to both the plot and the wibbly wobbly whorly morally stuff, heart appears only eighteen times in the Frozen screenplay. It’s only spoken sixteen times. Six of those are in the opening song.
Four are by Grand Pabbie.
When Anna is first injured:
You are lucky it wasn’t her heart.
The heart is not so easily changed, but the head can be persuaded.
And again when she’s not so lucky:
Anna, your life is in danger. There is ice in your heart, put there by your sister. If not removed, to solid ice will you freeze, forever.
I can’t. If it was her head, that
would be easy. But only an act of
true love can thaw a frozen heart.
The ice in Anna’s heart, while plainly foreshadowed and manifestly present, serves a metaphorical function as well. It’s the seed of doubt that grows when Elsa finally forcefully drives her away. The further she gets from what she knows is right, the worse her condition becomes.
It is in this increasingly confused state that she allows her decisions to be made for her. The plot becomes inflexibly focused on the kiss of true love so familiar to Disney audiences. To the extent that we fall for it, in fact, it is our hearts which are hardened.
Anna gets two of the remaining “hearts.” Three are spoken by Hans, who turns out to have the hardest heart of all. Elsa wants to be unfeeling or uncaring. He actually is both.
When he speaks of the heart, whether he uses the word or not, he is at best confused and at worst, and more often, lying outright.
With a heavy heart, I charge Queen
Elsa of Arendelle with treason and
sentence her to death.
We might be forgiven for missing all the clues the first time through. Disney’s heart was a little bit hard when they offered this promotional poster to an expectant public.
The well loved, sometimes unfairly maligned, Olaf gets the other one. He reiterates what Pabbie said, thereby explaining Anna’s thaw and contextualizing Elsa’s realization. And seriously, I’m glad he does. For all that I think our toddler got it, Olaf models the emotional response we’re looking for there.
I think there’s a pretty good range on display even if we only consider Anna, Elsa, and Hans. Each experiences an apparent change of heart with practical consequences. Elsa’s may be the most dramatic, but Anna’s is probably the most important. Hans serves as a cautionary contrast. Beware the frozen heart.