Week 4 – Beauty & the Beast

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.

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One thought on “Week 4 – Beauty & the Beast

  1. You are completely correct when you’re talking about the stylistic elements of the film. I’d like to add to this with one scene that I noticed in the film. This was when Belle is transporting with the glove. The first time she uses the glove, the scene was so slow and detailed as she comes out of the cracks on the walls. The second time she transported, she was quickly faded in and faded back out. The third time though, she had the glove and it cuts to her being in the Beast’s castle already. This seems to be used as the director knows that the transportation has already been familiar and uses less time when repeating the process. Editing and filming this way really creates the film. It would be boring if each time she transported, she was slowly fading in through the cracks on the wall. I agree with other elements like the soft blur of the fantasy elements in the film.

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