It is a French movie adaptation of the well-known fairytale The Beauty and the Beast and an absolute feast for the eyes. It features some spectacular photography and scenes – the colours, the textures, the costumes. It’s a delight and up to par with Hollywood productions – what a great thing to say for a European movie. However, I completely understand why people felt left-down in the second part of the movie and such a shame too.
The romantic connection between the leads, the slow falling in love scenario we all admired in the Disney version of the story, is missing. The movie starts out with impressive power but then it sizzles into ash because of unnecessary scenes and deviations. The declaration of love that is the climax of the fairytale feels rushed, illogical, with no real basis to it. It comes out of nowhere. I knew she’d have to say it but when she did… argh, I was just screaming: “But you don’t really know him! How can you say you love him?!”
Beast and Belle don’t interact a lot, or if they do, they don’t say much. Belle finds out more about him from the dreams about his past, but of course she can’t immediately figure out the king in the dreams is the Beast. And frankly, I wouldn’t like the kind of man he was then nor the way he behaved in Belle’s present. He spends days hunting a golden doe, obsessed with killing this beautiful creature and completely disregarding his wife and a women he supposedly loves. He also goes back on his word, so… yeah, not exactly prince charming material. He does learn some things from his beastly transformation, but not enough to count in my book. Better editing would fix many of these faults in the storyline because the foundation for a great movie is here. Just a few more dialogues, some more time spent together… anything. I rooted more for the past lovers than the new romantic entanglements.
The concluding action sequences in the movie when the Beast confronts a group of thugs coming to steal felt irrelevant, something we did not need to tell a good story. And here I went and had such high expectation when we got to see a more extended story about Belle’s family. *sighs* The godawful giants sequence kills the movie – who thought it would be a grand idea? It makes absolutely no sense when we already have an enchanted forest and creepy thorn vines. I also think the puppies were a bit too much but at least they made sense (unlike the giants).
The movie’s strong points
The castle design is amazing and appropriate for a fairytale. The ever-present roses make it otherworldly, they are practically a character themselves. Loved it. The Beast design is impressive as well and different enough from other versions I’ve seen before. The flashbacks to Beast’s past are intriguing. Although I thought for a while it would be the king’s son who is the beast and not the king himself. I wonder why I got this idea. Their voices were similar enough for me to note it, but we hear Beast speak so rarely it was easy to disregard the similarity.
Dream sequences and flashbacks are so beautiful and full of little details that I would be happy to watch a movie about the background story. How did they meet? How did the nymph fall in love with him? The courtship, the love story… it is a greek tragedy material. In a way, the romance between the nymph and king is far more fleshed out than Belle and Beast’s.
Speaking of Belle – she is an amazing character. Kind, considerate, heavy worker, down-to-earth. I think she was the best of the siblings. The extended family we get to see adds to her positive traits and function as a much-needed contrast. Her sisters were simply horrible people most of the time. The brothers were very different and I think they could use more screen time. Perhaps their role could be even more fleshed out but I liked them. Not so much the thugs but we needed a Gaston-like character for a villain, so it worked.
Watch the movie – it might inspire you with the wonderful scenes and camerawork. The story does not live up to the great Disney version, but it is not exactly bad. It just doesn’t live up to its full potential. And despite the criticism, I wish we’d get more high-quality European movies like this one. Just don’t compromise on the story itself – this is the backbone of every movie.