La Belle et la Bête

In La Belle et la Bête, Cocteau’s extra diegetic opening remarks to the audience introduces the narrative as a fairy tale. This consequently leads the audience to expect a happy ending at the end of the film. The narrative begins when Belle asks her father to bring her back a rose. This leads to the Beast’s ultimatum to her father of death or the company of one of his daughters. Essentially, the moment that this conflict is resolved, the through line continues towards more heightened conflicts such as if Belle can truly love the Beast and if Avenant will ever attain Belle. Using parallel montage, Cocteau combines these two important conflicts at the film’s climax as the Beast seems to be dying and Avenant has just gone through the glass window and into Diana’s garden. What’s interesting about this scene is that it contains unrestricted range as most of the film has contained as well. Belle and the Beast are unaware that Avenant and Ludovic are at the castle while the two men are also unaware that she is tending to the beastly man they came to kill. Although they never meet, both plots are resolved when the Beast is transformed back into a human and Avenant is transformed into the same beast he tried to kill, ironically for love. Human again, Belle falls in love with the Beast and the audience receives the happy ending that they had waited for.

Two interesting observations that I made was the film’s use of the mirror and castle to add to the plot. The mirror had significance because it allowed the characters themselves to have unrestricted range into glimpses of the other character’s lives. For example, Belle was able to see her father and the Beast was able to find Belle through the mirror. My other observation was that much of the plot space in the film, especially in the castle, served a deeper role to the narrative. This is especially true in the castle because much of the live objects, such as the living statues, served as supporting characters to the story. A perfect example of this would be the statue of Diana shooting the arrow that transformed Avenant.

Ultimately, Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête was a narration filled with a deep meaning of inner beauty and the traditional happily ever after.


3 thoughts on “La Belle et la Bête

  1. I also find it interesting that, within the film, objects usually recognized as inanimate were actually utilized to not only allow “glimpses [into] other characters’ lives” but also served as means to facilitate the unfolding of the narrative. The statue of Diana was irrevocably one of the most (if not the most) obvious example of an inanimate object unexpectedly yet greatly influencing the direction of the storyline, as her arrow not only brought down Avenant but allowed for the beast’s transformation into a handsome human being (with Avenant’s facade).
    Although this may be reading into it too much- I find that the almost deus-ex-machina-esque use of certain objects throughout the film insinuates a deeper theme that Cocteau may have wished to convey concerning the fickleness of love, and love’s inability to be truly realized unless other more irrational forces are to come into play (similar to the theme expressed in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”). Without Diana’s stone facade having come to life, the glorious “happy ending” of the film would never have happened. The reappearance of Avenant’s facade on the soul of the beast may also suggest an ominous message, besides appearing very strange or coincidental: the tainted nature of the love between Belle and the beast due to its ingenuine (in the sense of the objects as motifs, characters, etc.) means to success.

  2. I have not talked about the extradiegetic aspects of the film, so I am glad you brought them up. I was particularly fond of the soundtrack because it almost served as another character in the movie. It played up all the suspenseful walks through the creepy castle, as well as mushed up the love scenes. The background music in a film really sets the mood of the different scenes. One of the early moments of music driven by the characters’ reactions was when the Beast was introduced. After the father picked the rose, the director cut to a shot of the Beast. The moment of fright was intensified by panicked sounding violins. The violins also offered a sweet, pleasant sound when Belle looked lovingly into the Beast’s eyes.

  3. I loved the extra-diegetic words at the beginning of the film that talked about how children were taught that beasts’ claws would smoke after they had killed. I thought that was really creepy and cool and set the mood perfectly for a good movie. Sadly, I think that is the only thing the movie did right. Also I thought it was really creative that you made that connection with the bow & arrows.. and I realized that in the beginning of the movie Avenant is shooting at the girls, but at the end of the movie a girl is shooting at Avenant! I just lol’d at the thought. It just seemed like he got what he deserved. He was too reckless and self-absorbed.

    Some food for thought: If Belle had entered the pavilion instead of Avenant, would the Beast have turned into a woman?

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