Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Le Belle et La Bete | 1946 | Film Review

Fig 1 - Film poster for La Bele et La Bete

Jan Cocteau's La Belle et La Bete (1946) is what you may see as the original, darker and more perverse version of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. The fairy tail revolves around Belle (literal translation - Beauty) and her almost twisted whirlwind romance with the La Bete (the Beast). This film unlike its counterpart choses to focus its story on family and love, rather than magic and singing tea cups.
"...there is something bizarrely romantic in her holding out in this way, and in the Beast's very un-beastlike gallantry. And all combined with this strange Freudian sacrifice for her father — or perhaps it is to her father. It is formally exquisite and heartfelt and entirely absorbing: a secret fairytale for adults." (P. Bradshaw, 2014)
Belle sacrifices herself to la Bete to save her fathers life. While lost roaming the forest he stumbled upon la Bete's castle and taking a single rose which Belle had asked for, he was given a choice to pay with his life or select one of his daughters to be held prisoner for his actions. She believes it was her fault for the mess her father is in and willing goes to la Bete. It's only around this time that we start to see him through his facade. Gentle and calm rather than the cruel and feral like being we see at the start. 

Fig 2 - Belle entering the castle for the first time, surround by human arms holding the candelabras.
There is clear magical presence which is often seen in la Bete's castle, with arms intertwined with the furniture and decorations. Some heads are even positioned on the fireplace! Rodger Erbert noted it, stating
"It's entrance hall is lined with candelabra held by living human arms that extend from the walls. The statues are alive, and their eyes
follow the progress of the characters..." (R. Erbert, 1999)
Magic is often hinted at through out the film but not as the whimsical magic of cartoons and fairy godmothers, the 'magic' here is more of punishment. Is this supposed to relate to the riches that he obviously controls or that the outside world is merely onlookers to the events unfolding before them? This film is not meant to be straight forward with its thinking, but to allow the audience to speculate at its every twist and turn. 

Fig 3 - La Bete standing behind Belle who is seated at the table.
Before long we see Beauty beg to return home to see her father whom she missed dearly. The beast agrees with much reluctance because if she stayed away for longer he would die of grief. (Why he could not use his magic to transport himself to her every night is questionable although It would definitely prove the attachment issues for both parties.) he gives her a parting gift of a golden key which will unlock the door to all of his treasures.

"...glittering temple of Diana, wherein the mystery of the Beast is revealed, the visual progression of the fable into a dream-world casts its unpredictable spell." (B. Crowther, 1947)

When she return back to her family, it is clear to see she has risen from rags to riches rather gracefully. Her sisters green with envy and jealousy, steal the golden key sending the two young gentlemen off to steal the riches. Unfortunately, they fail resulting in death by arrow (fired by the statue of Diana.) Belle uses the magical teleportation glove to hurry back to her love where he is transformed from a beast to a man who just happens to resemble the young gentleman whom we just saw die. She accepts his wishes to marry her before the both rise up into the sky.

Peter Bradshaw, 2 January 2014

Roger Erbert, December 26 1999

Bosley Crowther, December 24 1947

Fig 1 - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038348/
Fig 2 - http://mediartinnovation.com/2014/08/11/jean-cocteau-mythopoeic-movies-la-belle-et-la-bete-1946/
Fig 3 - https://brendancultfilms.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/la-belle-et-la-bete1946-jeancocteau/


  1. Interesting review Beckie :)
    It might have been good to discuss the production design a little, particularly in relation to the input of Christian Bérard (seeing as there is a link between your own project and the use of an outside collaborator).
    Also, make sure that your quotes are italicised, and referenced correctly (just the author's surname, and the year). Can you also sort out the white highlighter that you have over some of your quotes please... the last one is invisible!

    1. Whoops! I didn't even realise the quotes were like that! Should be all sorted now :)