- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2001

A film portraying Heidi as a blue-haired punk who surfs the Internet, steals fruit, travels the subway without paying and sleeps on rags and cardboard boxes has angered devotees of Switzerland's most famous fictional heroine.
The $4 million Swiss production of "Heidi," which opened around the country last week, completely reworks the traditional image of the gentle-natured, Alpine orphan with plaited hair.
Instead of in Frankfurt, the film is partly set in Berlin in a city of skyscrapers, adolescent problems and single-parent families.
Christian Hoffmann, a devoted Heidi fan, said: "This is not Heidi at all. The film has nothing to do with the original story. For me, Heidi is the queen of the mountains. She is kind, friendly and a nice person."
Unlike the book, which is famous for its tranquil Alpine scenes, the film is anything but peaceful. Heidi's father dies in a mountain accident and her mother is killed in a storm.
In the original, Peter is a goat herder. But in the film, he likes hamburgers, baseball and Internet chat and hates cows.
Heidi's idyllic Alpine childhood comes to a sudden end when her Aunt Deta takes her to Berlin to be a companion for her daughter, Clara. But in the film Clara is no longer pale and crippled, but a lively Britney Spears fan.
Markus Imboden, the director, justified his modern Heidi, arguing that other Heidi films had also adapted to social realities of the time.
"This is a modern Heidi, a young person with contemporary ideas and principles, a heroine who is a go-getter and who impresses us with her simple, intuitive integrity," he said.
His movie is one of 15 film versions, including the famous 1937 Hollywood version starring Shirley Temple. The story has also inspired a highly successful Japanese cartoon series and countless Web sites.
The film is one of the highlights leading up to the centenary of author Johanna Spyri's death on July 7. The 1881 novel is one of the most successful children's classics, selling 20 million copies and translated into 50 languages.

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