The Singing Ringing Tree
1957 fairy tale movie
Plot: A prince, after a stubborn princess rejects his marriage proposal, runs off to find the "singing ringing tree" and win her hand. Instead, he finds a mean, tricky dwarf who tricks him into being rejected a second time and turning into a bear. He continues to try to get the princess to fall in love with him by kidnapping her, the sort of thing that usually works, but the dwarf has more tricks up his sleeve.
Children who grew up with something like H.R. Pufnstuf might enjoy something like this, but I can't imagine many children watching this and not being completely creeped out by the whole thing. And I can't imagine too many adults finding much enjoyment with something like this either. But it's something a childlike adult might really dig, and that's probably why I liked it so much.
This is very much a fairy tale although I don't believe it's based on actual folklore. It kind of feels like a folk-hybrid, borrowing ideas from existing tales of princesses and tricksters and helpful animals to assemble something completely original. The story doesn't make a lot of sense because the characters don't make a lot of sense. Why is the prince so intent on marrying this particular princess? Why is she so stubborn? Is this dwarf just mischievous or does he have some deeper reason for messing with everybody like he does? What the hell is wrong with that fish?
A story like this can only work in a land governed by fairy tale logic. The motifs mentioned above help the viewer connect a little bit, and there's familiar structure with things happening in threes. But there's still an oddness to the whole thing, likely the reason that I liked it as much as I did.
The best thing about it is the set design. That's art director Erich Zander's doing. The flesh 'n' blood characters are walking around in this completely artificial storybook world, and the sets don't look anything close to real. The colors seen here don't really exist in the real world. The almost-expressionistic gnarlyness also don't really exist anywhere. And that freaky fish is something I know doesn't exist! Add in a few cutesy, antique effects and you've got something uniquely fun. And one or two interesting settings wouldn't do it for me. Most of the story does take place in the dwarf's dwelling, but that set is ever-evolving. There are also plenty of interesting things to see in the lands between the princess's castle and the area where that dwarf lives.
That dwarf is really great, too. He's played by Richard Kruger, and he's feisty. I can't explain his costume though.
This movie is in German, yet another reason why children or adults wouldn't be interested.