Anyone who knows me will know that Disney’s Beauty and the Beast holds a particularly special place in my heart. In fact I have blogged about this film already here on the blog and how I continue to hold this film in such high regard as I approach my thirtieth birthday (https://dominicoreilly25.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/approaching-30-laying-my-cards-out/)
Tonight however I have returned from seeing the latest Disney live action reimagining of a classic. I was lucky enough to be treated to a night at the cinema by my twin sister and her wife. We had a wonderful evening together, there was plenty of craic but I was constantly aware that the visit to the cinema would be an emotional one. This story really does mean that much to me; so much so that it can be difficult to put into words often enough. However I think it best to make the attempt while the emotions of the film are still fresh in my heart. I hope that there are no apparent spoilers however if such a thing concerns you please read no further until you have seen the film!
Before I begin I should mention one of the elements to this film which I absolutely adored was that it in fact stayed truer to the source material that the 1991 version. The themes of stealing a rose, asking Beauty to dinner, the link between Gaston and the Beast…they’re all here!
What I should like to do is to take a look at the two main characters of the film and what I have learned from them…indeed what lessons in self they have reminded me of.
Belle is to my mind one of Disney’s greatest heroines. Voiced by Paige O’Hara in the 1991 classic Belle exuded a wonderful independence and passion. It’s one of the elements of Disney I think we tend to get a bit mixed up: Belle isn’t exactly a Princess. It is also important to remember that it is Belle who saves the Beast…on a number of occasions in fact!
Emma Watson’s portrayal of Belle in this new vision is no different. She remains independent and passionate. However now she embodies several other qualities which while they were not lacking from the 1991 animated version are brought out in a much stronger way through this vision. Now Belle is absolutely fearless, feminist, feminine and honest to the core. The many dynamics which exist within the film between Belle and the three male characters in her life is deeply affecting. She treats her father Maurice with nothing but kindness, patience and gratitude for how he has raised her; so much so that she is willing to give up her freedom and in many ways her youth for his life. She is patient with Maurice’s numerous eccentricities and does not judge him for these, but rather uses them as an opportunity to show him how much she cares for him. Finally she expresses her gratitude often for how Maurice has brought her up. A beautiful example of how we are to treat our parents and those who care for us.
In regard to Gaston I believe it is in this vision that we see some of the clearest difference between the animated Belle and the live action vision. There are certain lines of dialogue from the animated version that are now missing. They are significant as their absence only highlights further that Belle is a wonderfully strong icon of feminine strength and kindness. Her honesty with Gaston gives him the opportunity to grow into a kinder person, yet he constantly fights her on this. In many ways Gaston’s fate is a tragic one as although Belle does not have any romantic attachment to him she does in fact care for him. Who knows, perhaps she may even go so far as to love him?
Finally we have the Beast. I believe the Beast and Gaston are inextricably linked. Masterfully portrayed by Dan Stevens this offering of the Beast is to my mind, totally different to 1991 animated version. Why so? Because we can witness the tragic nature of the Beast to a greater extent in this version which was not brought to the fore so much in the animated version. We see that this is someone who was once very much a man who had it all and has had his entire identity wiped away. This tragedy is brought to the fore in the all new song for the film Evermore (which I hasten to add I am currently learning to add to my repertoire!) However where Beast differs from Gaston is where he begins to cease resisting the kindness of Belle but now rather seeks to complement her loving kindness.
This is represented beautifully for me in the Tale as Old as Time dance sequence in which when Belle approaches the Beast she curtsies to him. He in turn bows deeply to her. Neither one is in a position of authority or dominance over the other but rather recognises the other as an equal and a partner in whom to share one’s love. The Beast brings all this up with such honesty in his song Evermore. The power in this scene cannot be downplayed.
The great lesson this has taught me is one of humility and recognising further the real beauty of the feminine. We men are strange creatures. Truly there exists a Beast within each of us…including me! What is the Beast within me? It is the Beast of Stubbornness, Selfishness and indeed the Beast of Irrationality! To mention a few. However I too am blessed in that I have been able many times in my life to have the opportunity to calm these beastly qualities and turn them into something of Beauty. It is thanks to the powerful women in my life (both family and friends) that I have been able to achieve this. I am forever grateful to them for that. I have needed the example set for me by many men in my life however it really is so true that the male and female do complement each other. The beautiful feminine brings out something beautiful in we males and likewise we too can bring something out of them which may have been previously thought as hidden. Does this make you any less of a feminist? I do not believe so. We need each other just as we need strong figures of those of the same gender as us in our lives.
I have been asked if I think the live action version is better than the animated version. I cannot answer this because I am watching this film as an adult who has grown up with the animated. For me and where I am at present in my life I cannot wait to watch this film again and see what lessons it offers upon second viewing. However simply to close I should like to harken back to the words sang so beautifully by Emma Watson and previously Paige O’Hara:
“Ahh! Isn’t this amazing? It’s my favourite part because you’ll see; here’s where she meets Prince Charming, but she won’t discover that it’s him till chapter three…”
Be patient with love. Be patient with yourself, those you love and those who love you. Eventually, come what may they will see past the Beast to the Prince that resides within. It is entirely up to you just how deep you want that Prince to hide…allow him to come to the surface and you will be stronger for it. Be open to love and be open to loving. That is the greatest lesson these films have taught me and I shall be forever grateful for them.
Most importantly: find someone to share this love with!
Much love to you all for taking the time to read this!
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