Thursday, June 22, 2017

Beauty and the Beast, no, not that one. . .

If I told you I recently watched Beauty and the Beast, you'd probably think of:


You might even have a vague memory of this:

You might not be aware that there is a film version of this classic tale that was produced just three years ago. 

It came up on my Netflix, and I was intrigued because I had not heard of it before. The reason why is because it's an import: a Franco-German film to be precise. It's available in original French, or dubbed over in English.

It opens using the metafictional set-up of someone, in this case an older Belle, reading the story in a book (to her children), and the viewers see the book's pages and are invited 'into' the story.

This adaptation follows the more traditional approach (no anthropomorphized candelabras or clocks). Belle has two sisters, and they both demand expensive gifts from their merchant father when he goes to town. Belle asks only for a rose. When he loses his way in the woods, he spies a castle with a magnificent garden. He plucks a rose, angering the castle's master, who demands that he say goodbye to his family and return for imprisonment as punishment. If he fails to return. his family will be killed. Belle agrees to go to the castle in his place. I was a little bummed to see that this version has no Gaston- he's always been one of my favorite characters.

**spoilers ahead!**

The basic framework of the story is the same, but there are some departures from the story most of us are familiar with. For example, this Beast has some bloodlust. When he was a human, he was an avid hunter. He breaks his promise to his bride to stop hunting, and kills a golden deer. It turns out that his bride the Princess was actually a forest nymph, and the golden deer was her in her other form. The Beast killed his own bride, and his unborn child. This transgression is what led him to be transformed into the Beast. The Beast's backstory is revealed  to Belle (and to the audience) through dream sequences.

The cinematography in this film is gorgeous, and in that way it rivals the newest Disney adaptation. The Disney films always seemed to have a theme regarding materialism: the Beast is selfish and superficial, and all his faithful servants are turned into household goods while the castle's lavish appearance deteriorates. This film focuses more on the relationship between humans and nature: the Beast commits a crime against nature, his castle contains a small pool of water that heals people, and the castle's interior resembles an enchanted forest. All this, plus the tradition of Belle wanting a rose as her only gift.

I'd recommend watching if you're a fan of Beauty and the Beast, or of fairy tales in general. I think this version is a worthy addition to our Beauty and the Beast repertoire.

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