Film Review - La Belle et la Bete (Jean Cocteau, 1946)
The classic tale of Romeo and Juliet with a twist, a hairy one, La Belle et la Bete (or Beauty and the Beast) bring together love and honesty in many ways. The actual story in this French based film is not like the Walt Disney adaptation. As Roger Ebert comments, ‘’ Those who get beyond those hurdles will find a film that may involve them much more deeply than the Disney cartoon, because it is not just a jolly comic musical but deals, as all fairy tales do, with what we truly dread and desire.’’ Ebert, R. (1999). However, its charm, French wit, the over overexert set design and costume brings together the tale effectively. The set design is the main focus essentially, the film switches between the two scenes, the beasts castle and Belles house showing the detailed design of both in a way that reflects the character’s backgrounds.
The combination of these switching scenes and the mystical forest sequences where the characters are journeying from one to the other, makes it feel like they are completely different worlds. Belle's home is set in a harsh reality whereas the castle is set in a realm of magic and seems like an escape from this reality. The idea of escapism is very vibrant in this film due to this.
One of the early sequence of scenes in the film show the father of Belle finding the castle for the first time and being led by magical hands that come out of the walls, lighting his way (See Fig 2).
|Figure 2 - The castle|
This is the first real scene to show the audience that this is place consistent of magic and things that don’t usually appear in the real world. The candle sticks held by the arms we actually used as influence to the character Lumière (See figure 3) in the Walt Disney adaptation.
|Figure 3 - Lumière|
When it comes to the fairytale, Louise Brealy commented ''Cocteau uses wispy strands of lighting to magical effect and, to his credit, never attempts to fashion anything but a fairytale, inducing a childlike wonder rather than some cerebral reaction'' (Brealy, s.d.). Effectively, the use of props and special effects – even for that poor – bring to light the mysterious qualities in scenes. For example, the Beast (Bete) is shown as more of an animal, small amounts of smoke surround and eloped him, this seems to add to the animal-like nature of the character. The smoke coming from his paws and top of his head – especially off his head – is mimicking his fur, therefore giving the illusion that it’s the same, therefore tricking the audience. Simple effects like this are used effectively to stimulate a ruse of magic and take the audience’s attention and draw them further from reality and immerse them into that fantasy tale.
There are only three main areas within this film, the beast’s castle, Belle’s house and the woods in between. However, the transitions between them say that there is much more than that in the area, also, as Armes comments; ''the departure of Belle for the Beast's castle and her entry there are totally stylized, with Cocteau employing slow motion photography to obtain a dreamlike effect.'' (Armes, s.d.), it creates a dreamlike state that invites the audience to see it like a magical portal transition that the audience – and Belle find it hard to navigate out off.
Overall, the film does bring to life a fantasy that as children we have grown up with. There was some issues with the subtitles as they did not translate everything said. Its overall exterior and interior set design are visually stunning, as were the costumes, and its narrative is both faithful to the original tale and is artistically retold in its own style. Its technically clever effects and all the combinations of set, character and costume design create a breath-taking film.
Coctau, J. (1949) Figure 1. Film Poster http://www.cinemasgaumontpathe.com/upload/galerie/films/1283/1-0affiche.jpg (Accessed on 04/11/14)
Coctau, J. (1949) Figure 2. Inside the castle. http://www.curzoncinemas.com/images/films/l/la_belle_et_la_bete/labelleetlabete2900x506.jpg (Accessed on 04/11/14)
Disney, W. (1991) Figure 3. Lumière http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120727073436/disney/images/thumb/4/45/Lumiere-1900x1200.jpg/256px-Lumiere-1900x1200.jpg (Accessed on 04/11/14)
Ebert, R. (1999). http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-beauty-and-the-beast-1946 (Accessed on 04/11/14)
Brealy, L (s.d.) http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=132405 (Accessed on 04/11/14)
Armes, R (s.d.) http://www.filmreference.com/Films-Aw-Be/La-Belle-et-la-B-te.html (Accessed on 04/11/14)