Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast is undeniably a distinct work of cinematic surrealism and storytelling. The plot unfolds almost exclusively through the eyes of a third, omniscient presence, with an overall unrestricted range as the characters on screen are often left oblivious to impending events or situations that the audience members are privy to.
Dramatic irony is used heavily throughout the film, as various plots and sub-plots intertwine, with no antagonist able to be pin-pointed until everything has almost come to a conclusion. However, despite the use of this method (that was most likely intended to heighten the sense of excitement and anxiousness within the audience as the storyline progressed), the film ended with a definite sense of closure, with all loose ends having been tied into beautiful bows.
There are a plethora of visual elements used stylistically and dramatically throughout the film that do well to create as well as magnify a sense of tangible suspense within the audience, as well as illuminate the (almost ridiculously) surrealistic essence of Cocteau’s creation. The hands holding the candles and other objects within the mansion as well as the human faces whose eyes would follow the characters – in eerie silence – shed light upon the thematic core of the corresponding scenes- magical, creepy, hallucinatory. Especially in that scene, we were basically in the same mindset as Belle’s father, vicariously experiencing emotions similar to what he was experiencing.
The film, overall, successfully maintained this very ethereal, incredibly dream-like tone. During some scenes, I was reminded of Pan’s Labyrinth – a film that essentially feeds off of its own beautifully yet viciously surrealistic qualities. References to other films also give Cocteau’s film much more dimension, including the mirror – a motif used in many other fairytales, and an object of much poetic connotation on its own.