Wednesday, January 28, 2009

La Belle et La Bete

Before there was Disney's Belle there was la Belle of Jean Cocteau (and before that a history of French authors, but I'm not going back that far in time). Inhabiting a mysterious, hazy world of black and white, she comes to love the Beast... or does she? For while Disney's characters are clear of purpose and personality, the dream world that Cocteau's Belle inhabits is an eerier place, where motives are sometimes muddled.

As someone who has always loved fairy tales, I have been eagerly awaiting the Grand Illusion's showing of Beauty and the Beast for the past month. And while I loved the fantastical world captured on screen, I left the theater feeling somewhat puzzled. In the end, as we all know, Belle's true love has transformed the Beast into the prince of her dreams. But again, is it really so simple? In Cocteau's version the Beast and Belle's former suitor appear to magically trade places, and Belle herself admits to the love she has for both. Is it her perseverance that brings her what her heart really desires, even after she rejects the proposals both earlier incarnations?

But that, in essence, is life. Love, and the decisions it forces us to make, is never that straightforward. Except, perhaps, in the case of a true beast.

"Ma bete!" Michael and I exclaimed upon seeing Lucy as we arrived back at home. Our own little beast wiggled with glee and rushed to greet us. Some things, it would seem, are indeed just as they appear.

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