Netflix knows me all too well. It suggested Anne with an E, and I loved it. And then it suggested the 2014 French version of Beauty and the Beast. I added it to my queue a few weeks ago, and again, I downloaded it to my phone to watch at the gym.
Now, I’m a big fan of the Disney versions — both the 1991 animated, and the most recent 2017 release this year. (Who doesn’t love Emma Watson?) But, the Disney version is just that — Disney-fied. It tones down the original fairytale to make it much more kid and family friendly — full of music and dance and cute little teapots and sarcastic candelabras. The original fairytale is a bit darker, as are most fairytales in their original form. Original fairytales also speak more to human nature — and also deals more with the themes grief, mourning, selfishness, pettiness, materialism, jealousy, and love. So it was different and refreshing to get a more true-to-the-book depiction of this classic tale.
The first thing I noticed was how colorful the film is. The colors are vibrant, and the costume choices for Belle reflect how she changes throughout the film. The scenery of the French countryside is enchanting in itself, too.
For a bit of a plot background, Belle has 5 siblings, and her father is a merchant who lost all of his money during a shipwreck. The family had to sell all of their things and move to the country. Her father learned one of his ships actually survived the wreck, and went into town to see what goods he could salvage,and promised a gift for each of his children. Her five siblings requested jewels and gold and lavish clothes. But Belle requests a rose, so that she can plant one in the garden because roses don’t grow in their part of the country. Turns out, the information that the ship survived was false, so her father begrudgingly trudged home. He then gets disoriented and lost in a storm and stumbles upon the enchanted castle. He was stunned, then greedy. He filled his horse and buggy with all of the gold and jewels he could carry, and plucked one rose for Belle. The beast then lunges out from a tree and threatens to kill him. The father begs for his life, and the beast allows him to go say goodbye to his family, as long as he returns — if he doesn’t, everyone will die.
Belle is aghast when she learns of this news, and refuses to let her father sacrifice himself, so goes to the castle to take his place.
I like Belle in this movie. She’s beautiful, but she’s also smart. She understands that she’s being held prisoner, but also doesn’t really fall for all the lavish items the Beast bestows upon her. He gives her a new dress to wear each day — and let’s her explore the castle grounds, as long as she eats dinner with him every night. Why would he do all of this if she was his prisoner? Makes sense to be wary of a man, who is also a beast, to be a little suspicious of his motives.
I also like Beast, though. We learn from the dreams that Belle has at the castle that he was a bit cocky in his past, and was obsessed with killing a golden deer in the forest. There isn’t a Gaston character in this movie, but the Beast/Prince did have the arrogant personality that Gaston had. He also had a beautiful Princess. So in the present with Belle, it’s apparent that he’s remorseful of his past, and regrets many things, and is ashamed of his hideous appearance.
The fantasy and magic here is not the same as a romantic drama — Belle is no damsel in distress. She is courageous, fearless, and has more common sense than her siblings. Though the Beast does want to win her love, the way it’s done here in this movie is through the magic. Because Belle can see into his past through his dreams, she is able to see through the fur and the fangs that she’s presented with in the present.
If you like fantasy movies and the tale of Beauty and the Beast, you’ll enjoy the French version. You do have to read the subtitles, but because this is a story we are all for the most part familiar with, reading the subtitles was not distracting or burdensome while watching the movie.
Other things to look out for that you’ll enjoy:
- The cute transformed hounds that look like little big-eared goblins. They take the place of Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, Cogsworth, and honestly, I like them so much better here.
- Belle’s red dress at the end of the movie. Red stands out so much more than yellow. The color fits better with the symbolism here, too. Look at the other colors she wears, too.
- The stone giants that the Beast can control. Amazing.
- The dancing scene. Not the ballroom dance you might be anticipating, but very well done.
- The symbolism of the Forest and the spirits and Gods that dwell there.
And one more thing, where do we get that healing water for purchase?
What did you think of this film? What other versions of Beauty and the Beast should I check out?