Week 4 blog assignment

La Belle et a la Bette  is one of the various incarnations of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, sharing similar elements with other versions but standing alone in its interpretation and presentation. However, it stays true to classic fairy tales in that each character is hyperbolic in their personalities and actions, there is an overarching lesson that is achieved by the end, and there is a fairly happy (and a little weird) ending.

The director, Cocteau, was practically obsessed with fairy tales and the way they were told by different people and in different periods. This is evidenced in his surrealist take on the beast’s castle, which is really the main setting where it is most utilized. He also tried to convey the circular aspect of fairy tales, of the way cause and effect play out to create a story that could be considered timeless. Much of the film’s conflict sprung up from either greed or the pursuit of material security. The causes were not so much events in the story, but personal attributes of the characters that really drove the plot. Because of selfishness, the sister’s were nasty and prideful, treating Belle like a servant probably throughout her entire life. Minor greed was the cause of the son’s debt, which came back to financially devastate the family later on. And finally, the father’s ambition for money and status led him to being lost in the woods and getting himself indebted to the Beast, which set the stage for the true plot of the movie.

On the opposite spectrum, Belle’s selfless and humble nature led her to ask for merely a rose. This was the real reason she felt compelled to take her father’s place. The characters in the movie acted as if it was her fault and she deserved whatever punishment she recieved, but by the end you realize that her selfless request still had far greater success than any of the other character’s endeavors. The sisters remained poor, and the other love interest was transformed into another beast.

Another aspect of the narrative of this movie is its circular nature in dealing with the central lesson: It’s what’s on the inside that counts, and the pursuit of superficial happiness will leave you with nothing. We were never told how the beast came to be, and throughout the movie I wondered when that would be brought up and what role that information would play in the movie. But the director only hinted to it throughout the movie, giving us snippets of the truth that came to completion at the end. It was shown that the beast had countless riches and magic powers at his disposal, but as the theme suggests, he was not happy. He could create a beautiful necklace from thin air, but could not change his face. At the very end, you see Belle’s other love interest shot with an arrow, turning him into another beast. This was because he was trying to get to the riches in the pavilion. While this illustrated the main lesson of the story, and answered the question of how the original beast came to be, it also left a definite loose end to the story. I believe that Cocteau left it there as a testament to the circular nature of fairytales, how there is always someone in need of the same lesson over and over again.

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3 thoughts on “Week 4 blog assignment

  1. You’ve got alot right here, mate. (Cocteau was most assuredly obsessed with fairy tales) The story became cyclical by the end, with the story apparently beginning anew; and well, I’m not going to sum up your post. You covered it well.

    I’d disagree about the father, however. I think he wanted to take care of his family, to see his children happy, rather than pure greed that drove him to become a trader. That’s why he picked the rose, because he wanted to see Belle happy. (Don’t ask me why she did all the housework, I blame Cocteau). The sisters definitely wanted to see Belle punished, though.

    We were, though, told the reasons for the Beast’s existence, even though it was a terrible one. Spirits were bored and wanted to mess with someone. Not a good reason, at all, but that’s all we’re given. Alas.

    Avenant, though, confuses me still. From his point of view, he was absolutely justified in his actions. Some Beastman threatens the father of his beloved, then takes Belle away to his castle forever, not allowing her to leave but for one week. The Beast just sounds like a villain. Yes, Avenant went for the riches first, but was that, in my opinion, at least, could have been to rectify the unlucky streak that Belle’s father was having. And then Ludovic, who had the same intentions, got away with no observed consequences.

  2. Although the prevailing theme throughout the whole film is finding inner beauty in one’s self, I think you hit it right on the money when you say that greed is another major theme (no pun intended). The contrast between the two main themes of the film definitely leads to a lot of irony throughout it. For starters, it seems that the only person that truly cared nothing about money, Belle, is the one that by the end of the film is in the best situation. While her sisters and brother struggle against the temptations of greed, riches come to Belle because of her big heart and being one of the only people that eventually comes to find inner beauty in all, especially the Beast.

    The most irony, however, comes when Avenant takes up the curse of the Beast because he chose to follow the money in Diana’s garden rather than his heart. This is what makes the ending bittersweet for much of the audience because we associate Avenant with greed and not inner beauty. Therefore, I still do not understand Cocteau’s decision in revealing the beast’s human form to look exactly like Avenant. Regardless, the true message is delivered as the audience receives its fairytale ending.

  3. I appreciate how you made greed the driving motivator and largely central theme behind the story. That certainly is implicit meaning given that many viewers likely do not make that connection without further analysis.

    Another aspect of greed on Avenant’s part may be seen in how he wanted Belle all for himself, even when it was made clear that Belle loved the Beast. So this may be used as motivation for his downfall and transformation into the new incarnation of the Beast.

    As for the reason that the Beast turned into a man that looked exactly like Avenant, I think that was, in line with fairy tale logic, just a way to show that it turned out happily ever after for Belle. The man who she loved for what he was on the inside (Beast) transformed to look like the man she loved for what he was on the outside (Avenant). He is essentially the perfect catch for Belle.

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