Friday, 11 December 2015

Film Review - La Belle et La Bête

Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête (1946)  a gothic fairytale in which the imagination and the power of love make magic places where everything is possible. Marina Warner said: "The film unfolds to a perfectly poised slow tempo in surreal settings that gain intensity from the fabulous decor and costumes, the glittering lighting and the many moments of magic effects. The candle-lit shadow-play deepens the gothic atmosthere of the beast´s castle, harking back to early expressioist classics of the genre" (

Figure 1

Beauty, played by Josette Day, is a young girl who decides to save her father's life by living with the Beast in his castle. At first, Beauty is quite afraid because of him, but then her feelings start to change till they become true love. And that was the only thing the Beast needed to get his human body back again.

The tricky changes between outdoor realism and indoor fantasy, the makeup, the sets, and the costumes are full of details, maybe because Cocteau wanted to appeal through images rather than words. And that is why the role of imagination and creativity are so important. Cocteau creates a great atmosphere in which fantasy is the key idea or as Cocteau said, "Fantasy has its own laws, which are like those of perspective. You may not bring what is distant into the foreground nor render fuzzily what is near". (

Some interesting things are Cocteau's camera tricks and special effects. These make the movie's atmosthere even more surreal and magic.

Figure 2

In conclusion, as Geoffrey O'Brien writes, "Out of the extravagant variety of Jean Cocteau's work - the paintings and drawings, the poems, the plays and novels and memoirs, the opera librettos and ballet scenarios - it is likely his films that will have the most enduring influence, and among those, Beauty and the Beast will have the most pervasive effect". ( La Belle et la Bête is just a magical and enchanted piece of cinema that will always be on our minds.

Illustration list:

Matthew (2015) Beauty and the Beast (1946). At:
O'Brien, G. (2011) Beauty and the Beast: Dask Magic. At:

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