Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beauty and the Beast Films Discussion by Rachel Ayers


Here we have Rachel's thoughts about several Beauty and the Beast films as part of Fairy Tale Film Month. You still have time to contribute, too! But for now, I'll turn the time over to Rachel:

Beauty and the Beast has long been one of my favorite fairy tale,
especially as I discovered the roots of the story in the Norwegian
East of the Sun, West of the Moon. (Both stories of young girls who
go to live with a Beast for the sake of their family's well-being; she
has a chance to break the spell, blows it, gets another chance, and
changes him back to human. Of course the second chance is a little
more complicated in East of the Sun, West of the Moon, but the essence
of the story is the same.) It's one of the fairy tales that feel like
it is about true love and friendship, rather than love at first sight.
I have come to appreciate those types of tales more and more as they
are few and far between.

Naturally, whenever a movie comes out with the premise of Beauty and
the Beast, I am interested (although I have certainly not seen all of
them). When Beastly came out earlier this year, I went to see it. I
think it got a raw deal in reviews. Okay, I admit, it's not the best
movie ever, but it does the story (and the book it's based on)
justice. I mean, it IS about a man-monster blackmailing another man
into sending his daughter along as a get-out-of-trouble-free card. And
although I wish they'd stuck more with the magic mirror than the
physical stalking--well, is one really any better than the other?

Beastly wasn't great, but it was enjoyable. Neil Patrick Harris
cracked me up every time he was on screen. And I do appreciate that
the filmmakers gave the characters time to develop their relationship
on screen: it seems like most young adult movies involve the
characters falling instantly in love and then fighting for the rest of
the film until they finally realize they fell in love back at the

As with many of us, I am sure, my first introduction to Beauty and the
Beast was through Disney. Although I've come to appreciate more of
the problems of the Disney version (if a woman is pretty and sweet,
she can change a man from a violent beast into a kind and gentle
person), it's still one of my favorite Disney films. At least you
have a heroine who is bookish and smart, has some moxie and her own
interests for once. I still catch myself singing "Gaston" from time
to time.

(To be fair, Cinderella and Snow White were busy cleaning, and
Sleeping Beauty was busy... well... sleeping.)

I recently saw Jean Cocteau's version for the first time: what a
delight. Although it's perhaps the weirdest version I've ever seen,
with several elements that made me go "whaaaaat?" it is a truly
gorgeous film. Of course, many of those strange elements (like the
snarky family and the Beast's magical items) are part of the tale
popular among the French aristocracy in the 1700s. Still, the Beast's
smoking hands may have gotten a chuckle out of me....

Once upon a (recent) time, I was watching all the Faerie Tale Theatre
episodes again, for the first time since waaaay back. I was stunned
when I got to the Beauty and the Beast episode--it's a pared-down
version of Cocteau's film. The camera angles and special effects are
set up almost exactly the same (except I guess Faerie Tale Theatre's
budget didn't cover the floating-away sequence at the end). When I
realized that Faerie Tale Theatre pre-dated Disney's Beauty and the
Beast, it made sense--and made me realize that, despite all my
readings of earlier versions, and being a fairy tale snob... I still
thought of Beauty and the Beast in terms of the Disney version.

I admit, my favorite versions of the story have not seen the light of
the big screen--or even the home viewing screen. Still, I'll continue
to pay to see whatever versions Hollywood or TV networks put out, in
the hopes that they'll one day make a beautiful adaptation of my
favorite story--Juliet Marillier's Heart's Blood, perhaps?

Rachel Ayers


  1. Very interesting. Actually we do have 70 different variations of that wondertale in Norway. Not always a white bear (note that it is not a polar bear), one version is with a seamonster, from the west coast of Norway.

    Best greetings from Heidi Dahlsveen in Norway

  2. I'm a long-time BATB aficionado. My favourite film adapatation is the czech film, Panna A Netvor. It's a gloomy, sedate retelling that reeks of dampness and decay, and offers one of the most beautifully costumed and emotionally complex Beasts I've come across. It combines elements of several variations of the tale. Beauty (here, Julie, or Juliet) is forbidden from seeing the Beast, who struggles with an overwhelming desire to just kill her and avoid the horror of the moment she calls him a monster. most intesestingly, Julie's innocent belief that her captor must be a man slowly begins to change him into just that. The two confess their attraction to one another long before the Beast ever becomes human...a poignant twist when she discovers his true form and cruelly rejects him.

    As with most BATB adaptations, the ending feels a bit like a cop-out, but the buildup is magnificent.

  3. I'll agree that Panna a Netvor is amazing-- it's the first film I've ever seen where I was actually afraid of the Beast. Well done.

    I really wish I could see the Russian animated version in Russian (with subtitles), because the English dubbing on the only available DVD is pretty lame. Although I do appreciate the joy Tim Curry puts in his voice when Beauty first comes to the island of the Beast.

    I'll admit to not being that picky when it comes to adaptations though. In a way, I view them all as fanart-- even most of the picturebooks I view as fanart of the "ideal" of the story in my head, as it were, which lets me enjoy each in it's own way.

    Though I will always be grateful to Disney for first introducing me to the story. =)


  4. Lylassandra, is the Russion animated version you are referring to entitled The Red Flower?

  5. By the way, are you familiar with the movie THE ICE BEAR KING, which (at least) I guess is based on EAST OF THE SUN, WEST OF THE MOON:

  6. I suppose its one of those animal bridegroom stories right? I've read up a little on them and most, if not all of them have a story or several about an animal bridegroom or bride.
    I think it'd be interesting to see a film version of an animal bride, I don't know if they've actually done that yet. Have they?

  7. I guess you could argue a lot of horror films hinge on animal-bride concepts, usually in depicting women as "other"... and usually they wind up being something in the vein of "Species' or "Splice".... Though we did recently get The Princess and The Frog, which I'd say is pretty squarely an animal bride/bridegroom tale! Also, I guess the Sailor Moon S movie (English title is Hearts in Ice) qualifies as well!

    It would be interesting to see something done with The Little White Cat...

  8. @Megan: Yes, that's the one.

    And I would love to see something done with the White Cat. It's a shame that it's not more popular. It's interesting to me in that not only is the female the "Beast", but that she's so independent as well-- running a kingdom and fighting a war, among other things...


  9. Apparently someone beat me to the Sailor Moon Conclusion: