It is the question asked on first dates; the debate between friends; and (occasionally) the source of mockery for those who disagree:
What is your favourite film?
And who can blame us? With so many genres, an abundance of special effects and intriguing plot lines that leave us on the edge of our seats, cinematography has become one of the main fields of entertainment.
I am no expert by any means, but there are iconic movies in the life of every person, ones that burn into our memories and stay with us as we grow old. For me, there is no film that brings a smile to my face quite like that of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
As no doubt you know, it tells the tale of a Prince, cursed due to his foolishness and arrogance, who must find love and be loved in return before his twenty first birthday. Just when all hope seems lost, he meets his Beauty and, over time, he learns the error of his ways and they fall in love. (A happy ending is, after all, one of the defining characteristics of a Disney film.)
I fully accept the ridicule thrown my way when I announce this preference. It is, after all, a children’s film. But at the same time, it speaks of truths that are eternal and essential.
On the one hand, Belle teaches girls not to settle for a life that bores them, or to succumb to the wishes of a man who desires you only for your beauty and not for love. She values her family over everything else, sacrificing her freedom for her fathers’ sake. And, above all, she falls in love with the personality of a man, and not his outer shell.
And standing opposite her is the Beast. He’s a living reminder of the consequences of greed and disregard for others: a lonely life full of disdain and anger. He may have the form of something ugly and terrifying, but as his soul brightens with the love of another, he becomes gentler and vulnerable. He teaches us that it is not what is on the outside, but what reigns within, that defines who we are. It is our personality that makes us beautiful.
Not only does the film whisper truths at you from a young age, it is also wonderfully drawn (although my attempt above is nothing in comparison). The characters seem larger than life and yet as human as you or I. The balance between magic and heartbreak is tentative but successful and brings a smile to even the most miserable of faces.
Because the tale of love conquering all odds…well, it’s a tale as old as time.