Tuesday, 1 November 2016

La Belle et la Bête - Film Review

 La Belle et la Bête

This film adapted by Disney in later years is an absolute favourite of mine.  I am absorbed in the loneliness, love and romance that the film deals with. 

Fig.1. La Belle et la Bete (poster art)

The original story directed for film by Jean Cocteau however has a Cinderella feel to it.  Belle, the favoured daughter, is not treated well by her siblings . When her father wanders in the forest, he picks a flower for Belle but is captured by the Beast who lives in the castle.  Beast says that the man must die unless he sacrifices his own daughter allowing her to come and live with him in the castle.

Fig.2. La Belle et la Bete (film still)

Belle’s nature is evident as she willingly offers herself to save her father.  Whilst initially she is frightened by the beast, she soon develops a love for him.  Beast is scared that if Belle ever left that he would die from a broken heart.

Jean Cocteau directed a film that allows adults to escape and see life through the eyes of a child with all its fantasy, wonder and excitement.  This film was set against the backdrop of WWII ending, so in fact the audiences were looking for an escape from the impact of war: death, injury, austerity and politics.

Cocteau and his cinematographer Henri Alekan used reverse and slow-motion shots, mirrors and other camera tricks to striking effect.  "The black and white photography in contrast to the light gives the film a truly ethereal and dream like quality".  (Letterboxd)

Fig.3. La Belle et la Bete (film still)

This is evidenced in scenes showing the interior of the castle.  The  rooms come alive using unusual lighting techniques.  In one scene, a shadow grows enormously and appears to push open the doors of the castle. Belle’s room contains plant forms and is magical in its theatrical representation of bedding, furnishings and mirrors. It is truly enchanting.

Other effects create the scene where Belle’s father walks through the hall of living candelabras.  This sequence was shot in reverse to give the impression that the candles are magically lit by themselves. Such scenes create an almost supernatural atmosphere.

Cocteau was a sick man when he directed this film. Despite the pain of his condition he wrote daily, his diary of the film.  He was criticized for his lack of camera movement at one time and in defence he wrote on one Wednesday evening:

“In a spirit of instinctive contradiction, I am avoiding all camera movement, which is so much in the fashion that the experts think it indispensable……..I’m finding it very difficult to make the artists understand that the style of the film needs a lack of naturalness and a kind of super natural relief"

The film creates a sexual tension between the Beast and Belle but it is also created amongst the audience.  Strangely, even when the Beast is transformed into Prince Charming, the audience are left disappointed and longing for their old Beast back.  It is said that Greta Garbo yelled at the screen when she saw the film shouting; “I want my beautiful beast back!"

I echo her words!

Illustration List:

Figure 1. La Belle et la Bete (poster art) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty_and_the_Beast_(1946_film)#/media/File:La_Belle_et_la_B%C3%AAte_film.jpg (Accessed on 10 November 2016)

Figure 2. La Belle et la Bete (film still) https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Belle+Beauty+and+the+Beast+vs+Horse&view=detailv2&&id=F53EF45BD6EEA4F44A4D798C1A3706665D605ADC&selectedIndex=0&ccid=JFaIDlTA&simid=608009143800891205&thid=OIP.M2456880e54c09a1cae345c79c442f868o0&ajaxhist=0
(Accessed on 10 November 2016)

Fig.3. La Belle et la Bete (film still) http://gwarlingo.gwarlingo.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/beauty-and-the-beast-1946-Belle-and-knife-550x447.jpg (Accessed on 10 November 2016)


Letterboxd, 'Beauty and the beast 1946 Jean Cocteau' In: Letterboxd [online] At: URL: https://letterboxd.com/film/beauty-and-the-beast/ (Accessed on 10 November 2016)

Gwarlingo, 'Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beat : More Than Meets the Eye' In: Gwarlingo [online] At: URL: http://www.gwarlingo.com/2012/jean-cocteau-beauty-and-the-beast/ (Accessed on 10 November 2016)