About Mavka, The Forest Song and Dancing Your Troubles Away

There’s a lot more going on in Mavka, The Forest Song than just be an adaptation of the poem by Lesya Ukrainka.

Mavka The Forest Song DVD CaseShout! Studios
Release Date: Aug 15, 2023
Available to order on Amazon USA

It seems opinions about the Russian invasion into the Ukraine have filtered into children’s entertainment. When it hits that hard, that’s because one side doesn’t want the fighting, and prefers that all countries get along. When the conflict in Mavka, The Forest Song rears its ugly head, just how this title character can be a protector depends on faith.

Although the commentary was most likely not Lesya Ukrainka’s intent in her original 1911 play The Forest Song, what’s modified for this animated treatment certainly makes callbacks to other similar works, like Fern Gully than anything Disney would produce.

Technically, Mavka (Nataliya Denisenko and Laurie Hymes in the dub) is a woodland nymph and as the youngest of her clan, not even her elder sisters feel confident about her sudden crowning. Her role to bridge communities has first to begin at home. When she decides to visit the human realm, not everyone there even knows she’s royalty. The only reason she’s there is because of her interest in a male she helped save. But when a certain magistrate’s daughter catches wind of her appearance, what Kylina (Elena Kravets and Sarah Natochenny) knows is the stuff of conquistador yearning! But to be technically correct, she’s of Slavic heritage and has thick eyebrows to even rival one of Gerry Anderson’s puppets.

Mavka The Forest Song's Villain, Kylina

Although Kylina’s goal is to locate the fountain of life, other strange magic exists to stop her. Since it exists everywhere with the flora, fauna, and folklore manifesting in very cute and slightly horrific ways, just how they respond to positive and negative vibes is very telling. In regards to the former, what’s shown is a beautiful fairy-type realm that I even like to visit. However, these talking animal hybrids are nothing like their Celtic kin, and the fact they are not designed to be comic relief is welcoming.

Ultimately, what this folk tale is about is less like Little Mermaid (not the Disney version) and more thematically akin to the movie Mother Land, which I saw at Fantasia. There were times when I thought Mavka is modelled after Nausicaa, but her goals are different. The story takes a few notes from Princess Mononoke in terms of why it’s important to connect with the land, but as for how to avoid fighting, she has to make the hard choice in how to protect not only her world’s solidarity but also the human world.

Lucas and Mavka, Is it Puppy Love?

Although this film is supposed to include a little romantic tirade with Lucas (Artem Pivovarov and Eddy Lee), a handsome man both women like, I’m glad much of that tale is downplayed.

Instead, the music is more of a highlight. The bonus material on the home video release wonderfully details the time spent to get the costumes, dancing and soundtrack right. All this added discourse helps me appreciate this movie more. As a result, I’m thinking directors Oleh Malamuzh and Oleksandra Ruban wanted to design a film to show to the world why the lush natural world around Ukraine must be protected. When considering how much of the land gets razed during conflict, this film is much needed.

And as for how it can be saved by a song, the narrative takes that euphemism music can soothe the savage beast quite literally. That’s because Mavka has to turn to her dark side if she’s going to be able to do anything with all the strife going on. Thankfully it’s possible to unite nations, and as for all the forms that need to be signed, in this mediaeval tale, it’s all about trust to hope the future will be perfect.

3½ Stars out of 5

Mavka, The Forest Song Movie Trailer

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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