Beauty And The Beast

So, tonight, our blog posts are about Narrative, which, for a fairy tale, is very apt. Because this fairy tale was fraught with narrative. And narrative issues. We start off with Belle’s father randomly discovering a hidden castle in the middle of an apparently enormous forest (that never shows up in the scenery of the town) and wandering around, partaking in the food there. I can forgive this, it is after all, necessary to set the plot in motion. We almost watched Goldilocks, but no, the real issue here is Belle’s father picking up a rose. By some arbitrary decision of the Beast, touching roses are punishable by death… Or getting one of his daughters to take his place. Which also is fairly arbitrary.

Belle goes to take her father’s place, but instead of being sentenced to death, as Beast dictated she would be, she is kept alive, pampered, and then asked to become the Beast’s bride, every night, to which she says no, every night. I get the feeling we’re supposed to know that Belle is really nice and humble, but there is no characterisation to get us there. And there’s no way the Beast could know how nice she is, as he decided to spare her whilst she was unconscious. The only conceivable reason he would have spared her is that she’s pretty. It is her defining, and only, characteristic. Her name means beauty. She’s compared to her sisters via parallel montage, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the females in the world are horrible as well. Even worse, the sisters are constantly trying to make themselves beautiful, which the movie consistently reminds us, Belle already is.

And as for the Beast being a good person, he really isn’t. He’s nice to Belle, yes, but she is beautiful, and that’s an excuse in this universe. He sentenced Belle’s father to death, over a rose, the importance of which is never explained. Why are roses so special? The Beast may be nice to Belle, but from what we’ve seen, he overreacts and threatens people to death over his garden. He also keeps Belle spirited away in a magical forest, and “allows” her to visit her father for one week, only when he’s dying. She is his bloody prisoner, and this is Stockholm Syndrome.

The horse is also another example of lazy plot construction. The Beast has a magical teleportation glove that allows Belle to travel untold distances in the blink of an eye, as well as a mirror that allows anyone “pure of heart” (which he isn’t, though he can use it in the film) to view anyone else, at untold distances. So why does he send the horse to pick Belle up? She can obviously teleport back, and he could have used the mirror to check on her, rather than sending the horse. The only reason I can see that the horse would be sent is plot convenience, just so Avenant and Ludovic could appear at the Beast’s castle.

Not to mention that Belle betrays the Beast’s trust in every way imaginable in her week away from him, the least cogent part of the movie is any scene with Diana’s Pavilion. First off, and this is more of a pet peeve, the bourgeois of France before the French Revolution did not know who Diana was off the top of their head.

Now then. The Beast was transformed, as such, by spirits taking revenge on his parents. Not because he’s prideful and was mean to an enchantress who punished him for his sins, using rose motifs as his punishment, not because there’s some lesson he must learn, but because Shakespeare’s Puck was bored. That is an eleventh hour cop out. But! They also supply him with magic, a castle, an intelligent horse, and riches. Do these spirits know how to punish people? Was this film the true punishment?

Diana is somehow connected to these vague spirits, and by shooting Avenant, he becomes the new Beast. Which doesn’t make sense, was the first Beast shot? No. Why is Diana important, again? I thought it was spirits. The more disturbing aspect is that this Beast curse acts in the exact same manner as the cursed video from The Ring. The only way to free yourself is to pass it on to someone else, who may not even deserve it. The former Beast, apparently a Prince, looks the same as Avenant. He stole Avenant’s face. Which does not disturb Belle in the slightest, because she apparently loved Avenant as well, but refused to marry anyone until she found a Prince that looks like Avenant who also used to be a Beast but is now simply magical, and can fly. Because we’ve already thrown good writing to the wind, why shouldn’t he be able to fly? And Ludovic escaped this horrifying fate because he was afraid of going into the Pavilion. Surely that isn’t fair? He did, after all, have the same intentions as Avenant.

I just don’t even.

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6 thoughts on “Beauty And The Beast

  1. I sorta spoiled my self and went to tv troupes to look up aspects of the film, and yes it did say that it was a mind screw. So I sorta did expect something as tremendously inconceivable, just maybe not that inconceivable.

    I must agree with you that certain, if not majority, of the film was fraught with convenience and that characters with essentially catered to. Ahem, Belle, come on you had Beast, a castle, nicer clothes than you could ever dream of, and you still have the audacity to protest your “terrible” situation. And speaking of her sudden evolution of a spine, how come she never had one prior until now? Hmm? When she goes home, she is being led by her sister’s every whim, tried her best, yet is still insulted. Why is it that she suffers from a severe case of being a trodden doormat in her home, yet she becomes the fairy tale equivalent of David when fighting Goliath when confronting the Beast? Why?

    Simply put, it is because it is a Fairy Tale. Such incomprehensibly perfect tales are made so because of the complete convenience of magic. Fairy tales are just so finicky in there methods of delivering grace and punishment. They give one punishment, which can sometimes be so minor, yet the character still lives in luxury but now eternally complains of his one single flaw. In fairy tales, perfection is a must. Not a single blemish is to be had.

    Also, whatever happened to everyone? We are given nothing regarding them for the last 10-15 minutes of the film besides Avenant becomes the Beast and vice-versa. Ludovic was right there when he became a Beast, or truly he becomes what he really is, yet after that he drops straight out of existence. Why is Belle completely fine with admitting her love for Avenant the entire time, yet denies Beast then immediately changes her mind? (Women… I mean… uhh. Ignore that)

    Again, fairy tales. It all ends perfectly without further discussion. End of story,

  2. Just because an entire genre does not live up to your personal standards does not give you the right to bash a film widely regarded as the best fairy tale adaptation ever made. Instead of nitpicking plot holes, how about we admire what was actually achieved here. Cocteau’s obvious ambition was to use this classic fairy tale in a way that meant something to society at this time. Following World War II, after France was left devastated, he wanted to make a film that offered something a little brighter? A film with hope and love and yes, a perfect ending. I doubt people were thinking about anything magical or fantastical at this time, so why not liven people’s day? And he does this with his vivid imagery and incredible sets. His technique of narration was simply to convey the fairy tale through, but not limited to, objectivity. Plot wasn’t so much the forefront as was the original story itself was and the magical things happening onscreen. He was adapting someone’s fantasy. Something no one had ever dreamed of seeing. Realism, the kind your asking for, would destroy this vision. Do you really believe something like “Stockholm Syndrome” was considered when we’re dealing with things like a talking half-man-half-animal creature? Or historical accuracy? (This is not even set in a real place or during a real time!) You should probably take up your concerns with original creator of the fairy tale in the mid 1700’s.

    Also, let’s not forget that Cocteau was a surrealist. This would force his film even farther out of reality. There’s no need for any explanation for anything in a surrealist film. I can’t imagine your reaction to anything by Dali such as “Un chein Andalou.” Taking out a magnifying glass and observing the plot holes, Sherlock Holmes style, is completely missing the point.

    • And just because my reply does not live up to your personal standards,does not give you the right to bash my perfectly legitimate issues with the film. The film was made post WWII, fine. So were the movies Bicycles Thieves, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Double Indemnity, all of which are considered far better classics. So, that’s not really an excuse, is it? And it’s a bit of a stretch to call that ending full of hope and love. Belle abandons one of the men she allegedly loves, her brother drops off the face of the earth, and the curse continues on. Only two characters get what they want, at the expense of everyone else. Really happy ending. And if you would be so kind as to explain how plot takes background to story, when plot is literally “A series of events that form in a novel, movie, etc”. The problems were the shortcuts he made to the original story. I’m not asking for realism, I’m asking for better screenwriting. Belle falling in love with The Beast offscreen just so Cocteau can proceed the story is simply lazy.

      I have nothing against the original fairy tale. Some of my favourite books are from the 18th Century. Gulliver’s Travels, Robinson Crusoe, An Essay On Criticism; the 18th Century was imminently capable of excellent writing.

      I left the Surrealism aspects alone. I didn’t comment on the disembodied hands, the warping of space and time, anything that defines Surrealism. His use of Surrealism doesn’t excuse his lazy writing, however. If there’s no need for explanation, why is there a film?

      Oh, and Disney’s “Snow White And The Seven Dwarves” was made in 1937, which invalidates your assertion that Cocteau’s attempts to adapt a fantasy were groundbreaking. Sorry, mate.

      • I didn’t mean to bash your post, mate. It is not something I meant personally and I do respect your opinion. However, I felt like the film was unfairly judged.

        In defense of my own points that you in turn argued, I do have some things to say. First, your three examples I do not feel validate your point. I am familiar with all three films and although they are indeed post WWII, none of them are targeted to the French audience. “Bicycle Thieves” is an Italian neorealist film. Not only does it not offer any kind of a “happy” ending, but it depicts the hardships of life. Both “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Double Indemnity” are American films that probably never even reached devastated the masses of France during this time period. My point was that Cocteau made his film for his own nation. It offered an escape for them to be lost in the fantasy.

        Regarding “Snow White,” that’s an animated film. What I meant was that “Beauty and the Beast” was the first live action. And I’m sure you can do some more research and find another fairy tale made before, but that’s not the point. No one had done anything in such a way that he did. His vision is clear and the imagery is beautiful.

        I would also argue that there was indeed onscreen events that implied Belle fell in love with the Beast. Whether every single scene was included of her generating feelings for him is a matter of narration. I actually loved the way Cocteau implied these things rather than spelled it out for us. Belle cupping water for him or petting his mane is a smart way to show it. And her overall uncertainty (Beast vs. Avenant) creates more depth to her character. I would hardly call these shortcuts or laziness.

        Without further restating of my point about why Cocteau was intentionally leaving explanations out, I will add one other thing. Let us not forget that he began his film with a certain request (a set of instructions, if you will): to believe like a child would. Before you call this a “cop-out,” please consider the implications. Maybe he is speaking to people who will try to criticize in a nitpicking way and instead is asking us to see the film from a different perspective. He implores us to have a little faith and believe in his vision for 90 minutes. Like fairy tales often try to do, he wants to take us on an mystical adventure without reason, but imagination.

  3. I agree with you entirely. I thought Beast was a horrible character—not just a horrible person but a horrible character as well. I honestly have no clue how Belle could have fallen in love with him in the span of about 2 weeks. This absolutely is Stockholm syndrome. I, too, would like to know why you can steal anything from the Beast except his roses. It makes me think that the story from which this film was adapted included a much more in-depth back story of the beast that included roses somehow, and the film director was too lazy to change the script to fit coherently in his adapted version of the story that DOESN’T include ANY back story on the beast—at least none that includes roses. One thing that you didn’t mention that absolutely drove me insane was the fact that BELLE’S FATHER NEVER TRIES TO GO AFTER HER. Your daughter runs away from home to go die for you and you just LET HER?! The love of her life Avenant didn’t even bother to go after her either! What the actual frick? Seriously I feel as though the director lazily decided to ignore that crucial plot hole because it would have dragged out the movie longer than he could afford it to be. I laughed really hard at your analysis of the character of Belle… that her only redeeming character trait is that she’s pretty! That is HILARIOUS, and you’re so right.

  4. I agree with you that there is not much characterization of Belle. Yes we know Belle is beautiful as implied by her name, but we don’t know much else about her. Besides the fact that she refuses the Beast’s requests to let her have luxuries. She eventually accepts them and acts like royalty so is she really as humble as when we thought of her as a slaving maid? I also don’t think that the Beast was a nice person at all. Yes he tried to make Belle feel comfortable but when he asks for Belle’s father to sacrifice one of his daughters, it shows his beastly personality. He keeps Belle prisoner and doesn’t let her go home. This shows how selfish he is. I guess the point in the end is to let the audience know that love can transform someone, but can it really change someone’s personality entirely?

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