Into the Woods has recently made it’s theatrical debut and one problem being brought up about the cinematic adaption is that the view of one of the antagonists is obstructed. In Act II the main threat comes in the form of a giant who has followed Jack down the beanstalk. The giant is roaming the land, destroying homes, and killing villagers off screen causing immense dread for the main characters. If this monster is the key threat for the climax, why is it the audience hardly sees it’s face?
The giant remains hidden during the stage show as well with the audience either seeing a shadow lurking behind the actors or possibly a foot or a hand. For the most part, the beast’s destruction speaks for itself and when a tree falls or a roar is heard, the audience can gather that the threat is present. Still, the monster is never out in the open. The audience has to rely on the character’s descriptions of him to create a vague idea of his appearance. They have to take their word for it that the beast is grotesque and out to harm them. We’re seeing the giant through the character’s eyes rather than our own and personally, I love that.
From what I gathered when I watched the stage show, the giant wasn’t meant to explicitly be a giant. He represents so much more and we don’t get a decent look at him because the monster is more of a mentality. I don’t mean he’s imaginary – there definitely is a giant causing panic – but the constant dread of the attack represents the unknown darkness and change sweeping over our leads. At the end of Act I life had changed dramatically for each character. They had all been given what they wanted, but in Act II they have to deal with the price of heavy wishes. They have to adjust and learn that not every dream is worth having and what we think is best for us or the people around us sometimes isn’t. The giant is this impending reality trudging towards them. The charm of their wish has worn away and now the real world is beginning to resonate with them.
Cinderella is learning that love isn’t always eternal or pure. The Baker and his Wife are dealing with the challenges of raising a child. The Witch is learning to let go of her daughter and allow her independence. Rapunzel is trying to make sense of a radically different environment while handling an intense anxiety. The giant is that change and he’s a big change. He’s threatening, he’s hideous, he destroys what these characters once held as truth. Some survive the change and some don’t.
At the end there’s a song called “No one is Alone” with lines such as “sometimes people leave you halfway through the woods.” The “woods” could translate into “life” and how loved ones may pass earlier than we would expect or prefer. The idea of these woods being a representation of life makes the giant’s role all the more plausible. The musical is called, “Into the Woods” which could be taken as “Into Life.” The woods are dark and dangerous, but also beautiful and filled with hidden treasures and opportunities. These characters are getting lost, feeling conflicted, finding changes within themselves, realizing hidden emotions, and so forth when they’re in the woods. The most character development happens in the woods. That’s when the leads are struggling to figure out a path for their lives and understand who they are. The only deaths that take place are in the woods showing the end of life.The giant is the cause for most, if not all, decay which can be interpreted as the these characters not surviving change. Either they can’t adjust or they make the wrong decision causing them to get trampled.
I understand why the lack of a physical giant would disappoint casual viewers, but I’m thankful it remains relatively out of view. For on, CGI doesn’t always come out the way we expect it to. A poorly designed giant could severely throw off and otherwise beautifully shot film. Also, I’d like to think the giant would appear differently to each character. Each one sees a different marking or feature in the giant to better fit into their change or threat. This also allows for the audience to create their own giant and have that reflect their concerns or their own life changes while watching.
In a way, the obstructed view makes this villain all the more ominous and fearful. How do you defeat an enemy you can hardly see?