Beauty and the Beast (2014 French): Classic Fantasy and Magic Bring to Life the Old Fairytale

beauty and the beast

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?

Happy watching!

Anne with an E: Full of charm and nostalgia

Image result for anne with an e
Amybeth McNulty plays Anne Shirley in “Anne with an E”

 

When I first heard that Anne of Green Gables was getting a remake, I thought to myself, “No way could they ever top the 1985 mini series, or the book.”

And to be honest, I forgot that the whole remake was even happening until I opened Netflix yesterday and there it was — a photo of a freckly red-headed, wide-eyed girl — in the background of the clever title, “Anne with an E”. I was curious — how would it be different or the same as the mini-series, which I watched time and time again as a teenager? Could it even ever compare to the books, which I read with such a passion as a kid? So — to figure it out — I downloaded the first episode and began watching it while I was at the gym.

The first episode (of seven for the first season) is actually very very similar to both the mini series and the book. They all have to set up Anne in some way, and that’s a tough thing to do. When Anne comes from the orphanage she’s excited, scared, chatty, dreamy, imaginative, temperamental, emotional, unsure, and exhausted. It’s a lot to fit into one character, and the first thing that struck me about this series was the actress that plays Anne — Amybeth McNulty. I don’t want to say she’s better than Megan Follows — but she’s different, and in a good way. It’s so clear to me that this girl studied the books and says her lines with such precision and enthusiasm. Anne is not an easy character to play. And somehow she does it just right. She runs through her sentences to the point where she needs to take gasping breaths — and widens her eyes at the beauty that surrounds her in Matthew’s buggy. You can truly feel what Anne’s feeling due to McNulty’s talent.

And it’s not just McNulty either — the entire cast seems to just get it right. Matthew Cuthbert tugs at my heart strings throughout the series. He doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t need to. The camera work only just enhances how he patiently waits for Marilla to stop scolding him or Anne to give Anne a wink or a nod — and quietly gives Anne advice when she’s in the depths of despair.

Besides the great acting, the cinematography plays a big role in the series. I don’t watch a lot of shows or movies that focus on Canada — and the way Montgomery talks about Prince Edward Island in the books — someone has to do that island some justice. There are many wide shots of the farm and the town in all seasons — spring, summer, fall, and winter. It makes me want to take a trip up there to see in person what Anne exuberantly describes as the loveliest place. And as a photographer who has dabbled in film, boy do they know how to capture the magic hour. There’s one scene in particular where Anne and Diana are swearing to be bosom friends for the rest of their lives, and the camera swirls around the two girls at the golden hour as they touch foreheads together and take their friendship vows. I can’t say that it didn’t bring tears to my eyes.

Some purists may not like the fact that this series strays from the plot of the book. However, I actually really really enjoy that it does. Besides the first episode, which really was almost word for word from the book, the remainder of the episodes only take certain chapters from the book — and instead, build on the back stories of the characters. They give Matthew more of a history than we ever learned from the books, and they show Anne having much more flashbacks of the abuse she endured at the orphanage and her previous family. It’s important to show back stories because it develops the characters and allows us to connect to them on a more personal level. It brings Anne out of the pages and into a springy pre-teen girl.

It’s sometimes hard to think of how generations past lived and breathed and thought, even through words on a page. But this series makes us see that 13-year-old girls are 13-year-old girls, no matter the decade or the century. Anne struggles with fitting in at school with the prettier, richer girls, and has to put up with bullying and teasing, crushes, boys, her period. I sat here thinking, “Oh, Anne, how I can relate!”

So if you read the books growing up, and if you liked the original mini series from the 80s, I really do recommend you sit down and watch the remake on Netflix. It is so charming. It is funny. It is heartwarming — and heartbreaking. It is very much like watching yourself as an awkward young girl trying to find her way in the world. You will want to cry with Anne, contemplate with Marilla, gossip with Rachel, dance with Diana, and admire with Matthew.

You’ll also want to book an Airbnb for Prince Edward Island for your next getaway — or at least somewhere in Canada. It really is gorgeous by the looks of it.

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

Anne of Green Gables

Happy watching!

Best,

Megan