Movie Wednesday: Beauty and the Beast
by Amy Franzt, Brave Writer alum
Belle is the daughter of an inventor in a small town where she sticks out for her voracious reading. Tired of being socially ostracized and of dealing with the unwanted advances of the brutish Gaston, Belle longs for a life filled with rich experiences and adventure. But one day her father does not return from a journey, and Belle must set out to find him. She discovers that her father is being held captive in an enchanted castle by a monstrous Beast. To set her father free, Belle takes his place within the Beast’s castle. Belle soon realizes that all is not as it seems inside the castle, where candelabras and clocks can talk, but can she learn to see past surface appearances to the truth underneath?
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The live action adaptation of Walt Disney Picture’s classic animated film of Beauty and the Beast was released in 2017, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as the titular characters. Loosely based on the 1740 fairy tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (although one of the most widely available and widely referenced versions in English was abridged and rewritten by Andrew Lang for his Blue Fairy Book anthology), the animated film is considered a classic. The live action retelling expands on the original, adding new songs and plot developments, amidst lavish sets and costumes.
Beauty and the Beast has been adapted to film, television, and stage numerous times and remains a pop cultural touchstone due to its themes of seeing beyond the surface and the redemptive power of love. The original tale, however, was meant to help girls prepare themselves for arranged marriages and Disney’s incarnations have drawn criticism for the power imbalance in the relationship between Belle and the Beast and its implications. The 2017 film makes a noticeable effort to center Belle more as the protagonist and works in several new moments of the character being more proactive, though some felt it still was not enough.
The Beast in the film was created through a combination of motion capture puppeteering on stilts (which is a process of recording the motions of a performer using markers that are tracked so that later an image can be created over them digitally) for the physical performance and a facial capture done later to record Stevens’ acting performance.
- If you have seen both the animated and live action films, which do you prefer and why?
- Do you think the romance between the Beast and Belle is genuine given that Belle is technically the Beast’s prisoner for much of the film? Explain your answer.
- The story encourages the audience “not to judge by appearances.” Have you ever felt unfairly judged by your appearance in real life? What did that feel like?
- In the Disney version, Belle’s father is an inventor and Belle is an only child, but in the original fairy tale the father is a merchant and Belle is one of 12 children. How do you think these changes alter the story?
- In the Beast’s castle, his servants have been magically transformed into household objects. If you were turned into an object, what would you be and why?