La belle et la bête is a French fantasy romance film directed by Jean Cocteau in 1946. Jean Cocteau was a poet and you can see this in his film by the way he has written the dialogue in a poetic and dreamlike way. La belle et la bête was based on the fairy tale by Madame LePrince de Beaumont but Cocteau put his own stamp on it by using his skills as a poet and some great visual imagery to produce and classic fairy tale.
The plot of Cocteau’s film is about a merchant with three daughters and one son. The merchant loses himself in the forest and end up at a castle. After awaking from his sleep in the castle his decided to return home but before he leaves he picks and rose for his daughter belle. The beast says that he will die within three days unless he sends one of his daughters back. When he returns home he tells his family and Belle secretly sets out to go back to the beast to save her father. Belle at first is shocked by the appearance of the beast soon develops an affection for him however she remains adamant that she can never be his wife. The Beast, who tests her by letting her return home to her family telling her that if she doesn't return to him within a week, he will die of grief. Belle return late to find the beast if dying but as she admits that she developed feeling for him he turns into a handsome prince.
The story is presented so well that there are a number of themes that you can see in the film. The main one that everyone would automatically say would be that love conquers all. But there is also that you should look beneath the surface of the unlikely person because you never know what underneath (like the saying never judge a book by its cover). This is shown in the film by the way that Belle was terrified and repulsed by the beast at the beginning but slowly she comes to accept and care for him. This happened when she seeks his company and gets to understand him then develops affection for him.
I found this quote from Damian Cannon best describes this film ‘The classic tale of true love triumphing over appearance is memorably told in this post-war Jean Cocteau experience’ La belle et la bête was produced at the end of world war two when France was still reeling from the pain and exhaustion so their many limitations that had to be thought about when making this film. One example is the budget to make this film but Cocteau still found away to make a classic on a low budget.
La Belle et la Bête is a very dramatic and expressive film by the different techniques Croteau used to make this film. ‘The reason why the film still resonates to this day is partly due to the director’s experimental techniques.’ For example the scene when Belle is walking through the castle and with the effects of lighting ,darkness , the wind blowing the curtains and the way that she is floating toward the door it kind of gives of the effect that she is dreaming. ‘With Cocteau employing slow motion photography to obtain a dreamlike effect’,
The best thing about this film is the visual imagery with the scenes. The way that Croteau used light and dark to produce shadows to portray different things and feelings this helped to make the film. As well as the convincing make-up of the Beast and the different meanings made the fairy tale come to life. The only downfall for me was the ending because the grand finale is nothing then the beast transforming into a handsome man (played by Jean Marais who also played the beast and belle’s admirer) it was a little disappointing for such a great film.‘Jean Cocteau succeeds in creating a film that is both visually entrancing and emotionally rewarding, whilst re-telling a familiar tale in a fresh and innovative way.’