In this German-language tale based on a bestselling work of Swiss children’s literature, orphan girl Heidi is left at the mountain hut of her grouchy grandfather when her money-grubbing aunt finds a job in the city. Heidi befriends her grandfather and a goatherd named Peter and is enjoying mountain life when her aunt returns, insisting she leave the Alps to become the companion of a crippled city girl, at least temporarily…
The story of Heidi bears a resemblance to the English children’s classic The Secret Garden. In both works, you have an isolated wealthy child who is transformed with the help of nature and a kind of wild child.
The story of Heidi also has religious overtones; the movie incorporates the parable of the shepherd who (presumably) leaves his flock to find the lost lamb.
On the surface, the story is beautiful and uplifting, but I can’t help thinking that nature is overly romanticized. I think it’s all too easy for city people suffering from urban ennui to dream of going “back” to nature, even though they’ve never been there. It’s my understanding that the author of the book (Johanna Spyri) lived a city life.
The rejection of civilization is not complete, however, because Heidi learns to read. Reading, her friend Peter argues, is not a skill a goatherd needs; nevertheless, it is a skill Heidi finds she wants. Therefore, overall I approve of the movie and the messages it has about family, friendship, identity, and pursuit of happiness.