Film Review - La belle et la Bête

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La belle et la Bête 

With the importance of a simple rose, La belle et la Bête uses magical outfit design and almost Shakespeareanacting to entise a sense of fantastical fiction with a simple yet whimsical story.
Vanity is at the centre of this arguably shallow film but throughout it does not hesitate to remind you that kindness somehow triumphs over deceit. Belle’s two sisters constantly scheming, jealous and whilst they could be considered appearance-wise to be as attractive; it is their personalities and actions which set them apart from Belle. As Bete constantly reiterates, the kindness that Belle shows is as tormenting as his own – with eyes filled with never-ending sadness. “A great honour”

The interstellar coincidence keeping Bête and Belle together is one of the many strings this film holds. Bête’s world of sparkling and detailed fine drapery combined with gothic architecture only adds to his overall apperance, (figure 2) purposely chosen by Jean Cocteau but on such a precise scale that not everything had to be considered. It “exemplifies the fact that sets need not be complex and elaborate to make a scene in a film spectacular. “(Stephens, 2009) There are two largely conflicting themes of the upper class and fine living that Bête has, compared to the ever-disappearing shoddy environment of Belle’s. – Which is to say strange at the least if you notice that they both live opposite lifestyles to their environment. Bête’s mindset is one to poverty though however humble Belle may be, hers is much more oppressively wealthier in character. Bête offers his wealth in exchange for her time, company and is ultimately humble to match Belle’s equally as humble self.

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With set design so carefully focused on portraying Bête’s past when asking the question “Why is Bête so familiar to a person?” It seems as if he turns more and more into a human with a soul; than that of a mindless creature the more he talks to Belle. Whilst Belle makes the observation that Bête’s voice has “gone soft” we soon realise Cocteau wants to create empathy for a beast blessed by Belle. “a Beast who is lonely like a man and misunderstood like an animal.” (Ebert, 1999) We are brought out of the gothic and dark architecture into a much more faerie and delicate environment. Outside, airy and open-spaced. Perhaps from the Vogue artist Christian Bérard (figure 1, 3) is what brings these dramatic designs to the laced and frilly table; but it creates an original and irreplaceable aesthetic that cannot be copied with ease. – Definitely not a downside to using an Illustrative Artist rather than a typical Concept Artist or Production Designer.

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La Belle et la Bête brings an underlying sense of shallowness which is often confronted when dealing with the issue of appearance, attraction and what we consider to be the monstrous or magnifique. Yet it deals with this in such an honest way there is no deceiving or back-handed psychology to derive from the simplistic of narratives.
“The pain of someone who is considered an outcast by society because of how they look on the outside will always be there and will never leave, as long as people will always be scared towards those who are different.” (Matthew, 2012)


Illustration List

Bérard, C. (1946). La Belle et la Bete Alternative Poster Art. [image] Available at: [Accessed 28 Oct. 2014].

Cocteau, J. (1946). La Belle et la Bête. [image] Available at: [Accessed 28 Oct. 2014].

Cocteau, J. (1946). Film Still 1. [image] Available at: [Accessed 28 Oct. 2014].


Matthew, (2012). Beauty and the Beast Criterion Foreign Film Movie Review 1946. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Oct. 2014].

Ebert, R. (1999). Beauty and the Beast Movie Review (1946) | Roger Ebert. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Oct. 2014].

Stephens, I. (2009). film110 / Mise en Scene in La Belle et la Bete. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Oct. 2014].

Stephens, I. (2009). film110 / Mise en Scene in La Belle et la Bete. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Oct. 2014].

1 comment:

  1. And another interesting review... you have got the hang of it now :)
    Just see my comments previously on the formatting...

    Looking forward to the next one!