With the Disney release of the live action Beauty and the Beast, I couldn’t have been more excited to see the preview for this movie; excited and confused. My first question was why they would choose to create a live action version of a film and go up against the Disney giant. I thought this was similar to how Disney brought us the live action version of the Jungle Book and how Warner Brothers has decided to attempt the same so soon after Disney’s release. It wasn’t until I watched the film that I discovered that the movie had originally been released in 2014, not to mention that the film is entirely in french and subtitled.
The story is set in 1810 and follows a widower (Andre Dussollier) with six children; three boys and three girls. The father has made his money as a merchant with his ships, but when his ships are destroyed at sea, along with their cargo, he is financially ruined. The family has lost everything and is forced to live in a small cottage in exile. When part of the ship’s cargo is recovered, the family rejoices and the children make a list for their father of the items they want him to purchase for their expected return to London. His youngest daughter, Belle (Lea Seydoux), asks only that he bring her back a rose, as she has been unable to grow one in the cottage’s garden. When the father reaches London, he discovers that his merchant partner has cheated him and all hope is lost once again. While trying to make the journey back home through a snow storm, his horse is injured and cannot move any further forcing him to continue on foot and leave his horse to die. A light in the distance brings the father to a large castle, seemingly abandoned, he discovers a feast prepared on a vast table. In a pile near the food are chests and items displayed neatly, everything that was on the list given to him by his children. Unsure of how he would bring back the riches, his horse appears with bandaged legs. His generous and mysterious benefactor has still made no appearance so he gathers the items and makes his way back home. Leaving the grounds he happens upon many beautiful roses, but when he picks a rose to bring back for Belle, a dark and terrible beast appears (Vincent Cassel).
I’ve never read the original story of Beauty and the Beast, as much as I would like to. As far as I know it is a french story and I imagine differs in many ways from the Disney version, but I imagine would be very similar to this one. There are many obvious similarities, but as many similarities there are to the Disney story, there are just as many differences. There is a back story to the Beast’s curse involving a lovely princess. There are no enchanted objects that walk and speak throughout the castle, but instead the Beast’s hunting beagles have been transformed into strange and rather adorable little creatures.
The story was similar to the one that I love so much, but it had so many differences that it created it’s own story and I was so excited to see where the journey would take us. The visuals in the film were amazing. There were so many details in the wardrobes, the scenes and the animations that were so well done, combined with the story was perfection. It is difficult to watch the film and try not to relate every detail to the Disney version, but because of it’s differences I was able to treat it more as a separate film rather than a remake more easily. Towards the end during the battle, if you will, I was a little annoyed with how things played out. The details all play in together with the story and it makes sense, but it was done in a way that seemed more fake and farfetched even in a film of whimsy, beasts, magic and animated dog creatures.
The fact that the film was done in french goes both ways, giving it the authentic and beautiful french dialect to go with the original story, but reading the subtitles often drew your eyes away from the screen and the beautiful scenes. I would be very interested to see if there is an english dubbed version and give the film another chance. Either that or I will just have to learn french well enough to remove the subtitles and understand the words.
This french live action version of Beauty and the Beast is a must see for any Beauty and the Beast fan, but if you do find an english version, please let me know!