When approaching such treasured cinematic territory, and following on from the likes of Jean Cocteau and Walt Disney in adapting Beauty and the Beast, to justify the endeavour you must be able to offer something original, and imaginative in your re-telling of the cherished fairytale. However Christophe Gas’ rendition can’t boast to have succeeded in this area, as the filmmaker walks away from his preceding horror flick Silent Hill, to try something a little out of his comfort zone, though regrettably this is not quite the worthy venture anticipated.
When an affluent merchant (André Dussollier) falls upon hard times, he and his family move out to the countryside, to lead a simpler, less demanding life. Though two of his daughters are fervently against the idea, his youngest child Belle (Léa Seydoux) longs for the tranquillity that beckons. However before too long her father discovers the magical kingdom of the Beast (Vincent Cassel), and seeks in stealing some of the treasures within. When caught red-handed, the merchant is cursed with a forthcoming death spell, and Belle valiantly offers up her own life to save her father’s, as she agrees to spend the rest of her days living alongside the feared creature.
There is one of two ways to approach this timeless tale, and that is either to focus on the enchanting, fantastical elements of the piece, or to explore the darker, more sinister aspects. Gas certainly seems to have opted for the former, and while he struggles to spark any magic within us, he remains faithful to the intrinsic charm of his native country’s cinematic sensibilities. Perhaps he would benefit from delving further into the macabre atmosphere though, at least to satisfy the adults in a film evidently aimed at a younger audience. It’s a shame the filmmaker has taken such an approach, as his work is famed for his distinct portrayal of twisted barbarity, and he hasn’t been given the platform to showcase such talents in this project.
Nonetheless, the visual experience is an undeniably immersive one, and the use of colours, such as how Belle’s strikingly red dress plays against the often dark, sombre background makes for an unforgettable aesthetic. However such commendation cannot be extended to the effects, as the clunky, unattractive use of CGI is encumbering to say the least. It detracts from the narrative too, which proves to be highly detrimental where this film is concerned. Beauty and the Beast is one of the great, traditional love stories and this film simply feels devoid of any such romanticism, with no chemistry or spark between our protagonists of any kind.
It’s somewhat easy to indulge in however, and given it’s aimed at a younger demographic, it can be excused to some extent. However really this needs to be dubbed when introduced to an English speaking crowd, because there is little worldwide appeal for a subtitled children’s productions. Though that said, if you really wanted to introduce your offspring to this majestic, illuminative tale, stick on the Disney classic and have a sing a long to Be Our Guest instead, because this merely pales in comparison.