“The Huntsman: Winter’s War” is a really good movie. There is lots of eye candy, and the story is consistently tension-filled. However, a lot of movies that aren’t very good can be visually gorgeous, provide plenty of suspense, and still not be that good. We’ll give those movies Cs just because the filmmakers gave us good looking movies that kept our attention. But “The Huntsman” went the extra mile with the ice and mirror metaphors. A message of substance always adds a special dimension to a film.
In the film, Freya’s icy body is not a permanent state, and it’s not a given that the ice inside her will project out. She wasn’t born spewing ice from her hands. She used to be warm and loving. The ice is only a reflection of what’s currently in her heart. She’s emotionally frozen as a result of a past tragedy, but she doesn’t have to be that way. She has the power to cease being an ice queen; she just can’t bring herself to change. Like Ravenna’s magic mirror, the ice doesn’t necessarily reflect the truth or destiny. It’s an illusion that can melt away as quickly as it came.
The mirror storyline makes the power (or lack of power) of the mirror very explicit. It does not have the power to give a unique, independent answer to anyone’s questions. It looks into an asker’s heart and reflects the answer that is already there. So if you ask the mirror if there is someone fairer than yourself, the mirror will not show you someone who is literally fairer. The mirror will show a person that you would personally consider to be fairer (not necessarily someone other people would consider to be fairer), and it reflects how you think and feel about that person.
Because the mirror is only a reflection, it has no real power over anyone. Ravenna was never forced by the mirror to do anything to Snow White or anyone else. When she stood before it, the mirror just reflected whatever was in her heart. This is something Freya discovers in the movie. When she looks into the mirror and asks a question, she sees her own answer reflected back at her. The answer to her question was already in her heart, but she wouldn’t allow herself to see it until she asked the mirror. The mirror never gave Ravenna power, and it can’t give anyone else power either.
There is a reason Snow White is not very attached to the mirror. In the movie, she has decided to get rid of it permanently. She’s already figured out that no one actually needs the mirror, and it’s more trouble than it’s worth. It was never a guide or an oracle. It can only show you your own heart, and it shouldn’t be a shock if you already knew what was in it. Snow White knows who she is, so there is nothing new that the mirror can show her.
The deceptive reflections shown in the ice and the mirror can be expanded to life in general. Our perceptions can be skewered by what’s already in our hearts. We project our own hang-ups onto what’s happening in our lives, and that’s reflected in our behavior. It’s something the queens in the movie struggle to grasp.