The Little Mermaid

Film by Timna Woollard

Mermaid Emma Woollard
Femme Fatale Princess Emma Woollard
Prince Julian Barker
Sea Witch Sophie Parkin
1984 –1987 Shown at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington
1985 Shown at The M.C.A.D Gallery. Minneapolis


My Film was made in the last year of my 3-year degree course in fine art. I filmed, lit, edited, designed and painted all the sets and costumes. It encapsulates all my influences, painters & paintings I love, I intended it to have an unreal theatrical air, towards the end having the exaggerated movements of an ancient Greek drama. It is a theatrical fairy tale in the form of a Greek tragedy.

Colour is symbolically important to the film, especially blue and red which are very prominent. Blue representing: - innocence, The mermaid & the Sea; Red representing;- corruption, blood and death. Red gradually triumphs at the end of the film. The Mermaid wipes red blood (corruption) over her blue body, representing the corruption of innocence.

The Mermaid & the Princess represent the different sides of women;

Mermaid - passive and innocent

Princess - idol-like ‘femme fatale’, domineering and manipulative

The Sea Witch - overseer & death.

Traditionally, The mermaid is a symbol of death, destroyer of men. This was a male concept. The mermaid was invented by men as a sexual fantasy, drowning was a common fate for male victims of the fatal mermaids. It can be interpreted as an unconscious metaphor for man’s fear of being overwhelmed by female sexuality or loss of identity and self-control in sexual intercourse.

The sirens of Greek mythology were fallen angels who could only eat living flesh. They captured the sailor by singing and lured him to sleep, then they tore him to pieces with their spiky green teeth.
The Mermaid in my film is seen quite differently. She epitomizes virginal innocence and is destined for a tragic end because of her purity of spirit. She is in search of something, she doesn’t know what – love, companionship, desire, lust, or loss of her virginity - and until she finds it she is destined to swim eternal until she is saved or has found the object of her desire. Her innocent eyes, large and blue like the sea, gaze into empty blue space with haunting ambiguity like a sleepwalker. They are open but they are blind to reality.

When she sees the Prince asleep in his boat she falls in love with him, and in her eyes he becomes her object of desire. From this moment on they are destined to a tragic end. She pulls him down into the depths with her and holds him in her lap until she decides to return him to earth, hoping to give up her life as a mermaid to be with him. But the fatale Princess is on the beach in her striped beach tent and sees the Prince lying by the shore, deciding to take him to her palace for her self. She dances a dance of seduction to Hawaiian music in her bizarre hooped beach dress, and takes him away entangled in her hoops.

Mean while, the Mermaid, caught up in her obsession for him, goes to the Sea Witch to be transformed into a human. She is later found by the Prince on the beach nude beneath a fishing net. He takes her to the palace where she becomes corrupted. She makes a pathetic attempt at seducing him by dancing in a costume resembling a clown or harlequin rather than seductress. He rejects her because she is not wise to the rules involving the witchcraft of seduction. The Fatale Princess who knows the witchcraft of seduction and adornment lures him. This cold-hearted sphinx-like goddess sits in her red bedchamber, white and stone-like, adorned in pearls. She draws him into her web like a spider, and there she seduces him.

The mermaid sees them. While they are asleep, humiliated, she goes out in a boat and is given a knife by Death (The Sea Witch), who tells her she has to kill him to save her soul or she will dissolve into foam on the sea. She takes the knife and plunges it into his heart while he sleeps.

By killing him she is not revenged because he was her own creation. She is killing herself.
Film Still: ‘The Little Mermaid’, The Femme Fatale Princess & Prince on the beach.
Film Still: ‘The Little Mermaid’, The Prince & The Femme Fatale Princess on her throne..
Film Still: ‘The Little Mermaid’.
Film Still: ‘The Little Mermaid’, The Femme Fatale Princess.
Film Still: ‘The Little Mermaid’, The Femme Fatale Princess & Prince in the bedchamber.
Film Clips ‘The Little Mermaid’.
Film Clips ‘The Little Mermaid’.
Film Clips ‘The Little Mermaid’.
Film Clips ‘The Little Mermaid’.
Timna Woollard Personal