La Belle et La Bete (1946) was directed by Jean Cocteau and Rene Clemet, it is essentially a French film. It is an enchanting film about a beautiful young maiden who falls in love with an ugly Beast, who at first seems to cruel and frightening. Something significant about the date this film was released, it was released a year after the end of World War II. Cocteau wanted to create an inspiring and enchanting film to help with the toll of War. "Cocteau, a poet and surrealist, was not making a children's film but was adapting a classic French tale that he felt had a special message after the suffering of World War II: Anyone who has an unhappy childhood may grow up to be a Beast" (Ebert, 1999). It is a classic Beauty and the Beast story, though there is also a lot of significance and relation to another fairy tale, the original Brother's Grimm story of Cinderella.
In the original Brother's Grimm story of Cinderella, Cinderella's father lost his wife and married a rich woman, along with the step mother came the two wicked step sisters who forced Cinderella to work for them and mocked her. Although La Belle et La Bete doesn't showcase a step mum figure it does have the two wicked sisters explained, whether or not they're step sisters is unclear, which is not something that you see in modern takes on the story of Beauty and the Beast, such as Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Another link to the Brother's Grimm story of Cinderella in relation to La Belle et La Bete is the father temporarily goes away and asks the step sisters and Cinderella what they want when he returns, the step sisters asked for fine dresses and jewels, though Cinderella only asked for a branch from the first tree. In La Belle et La Bete typically the sisters ask for luxury items whereas Beauty/Belle only asks for a simple rose, which leads to the introduction of the Beast/Bete in the La Belle et La Bete.
Belle's father runs into the Beast, while taking a rose from the Beast's garden which angers the Beast as he threaten's Belle's father, telling him that he will kill him here and now unless one of his daughters swaps places with the father and comes to him, the Beast. Because Belle feels guilty for her father's predicament she decides to go to the Beast, creeping away in the night on a magical white horse that the Beast gave to the father for that very use. It is within the Beast's lair where you see the beauty of the production design, not only is the exterior beautiful and grand, with the blossoming of flowers and life, which could be seen as a symbol of the character of the Beast himself, a flower waiting to be blossomed with a little love and care from another, Belle. But also with the interior decor, when the audience is first introduced to the interior of Beast's enchanted castle there is a creepy yet captivating atmosphere. The castle itself is alive, the lights in the corridors are hands that move outwards to hold the light closer to the corridor, giving light.
It is within the Beast's castle, where you see clear influences for Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and how you can really see the separation between a children's film and an inspiring story. In Disney's Beauty and the Beast, instead of the furniture being eerily silent but still alive the furniture is transformed into lovable cartoon sidekicks, making it more child-friendly. The alive and silent hand candles in La Belle et la Bete may again have relations to the War that just ended, the hands look may represent the hands of the dead in the war that have awakened and carry on living in the homes of families, in their memories. A candle is also symbolic of hope in the catholic faith, and at the time of this film Catholicism was the dominant religion in France, and so the idea of hope after the War is very prominent and inspiring. While Belle is exploring the castle in La Belle et La Bete there is a scene in which is Belle is going down a corridor and it looks as if she is almost magically gliding across the floor, increasing the magical and enchanting vibe this film possesses. The female statues also open their eyes and blow smoke, again pushing the aspect of the castle being alive. It can be noted that these statues also look incredibly creepy, which may frighten children, making La Belle et La Bete no mere children's tale. "Cocteau transforms the architectural space into living, breathing form." (Miller, 2002).
Upon exploration of the castle Belle runs into the Beast, causing her to feint in sudden shock and fear, but instead of being a brutal beast that her father described and killing her, the Beast gently carries her away and lets her rest upon a luxurious bed. When Belle awakens the Beast asks her to join him for dinner, it is within these dinner scenes where the camera angles truly reflect the unease and deep thoughts of the character of Belle. Belle waits at the dining table and the Beast appears behind her and approaches slowly, much like the suspense you see in contemporary horror films. This shot not only represents Belle as being seen as a helpless victim but also as the Beast being an intimidating character, though it is the much the opposite idea for the Beast as the film continues and audiences truly get to understand the character of the Beast and sympathize with him. Although Belle appears weary of the Beast at first as the film goes on she continues to grow a fondness for him and enjoys being in his presence as he becomes this kind and generous character who yearns for nothing more than to be loved. "Beauty begins to understand the Beast and seeks out his company. He acts gallantly at all times, talking of how his entire kingdom is built from magic and showing that he is, perhaps, more human than anyone else that she knows." (Cannon, 1997).
The underlying meaning of the original story of Beauty and the Beast is never judge a book by its cover and the symbolism for this meaning is clearly portrayed. When learning of her beloved father's illness Beast gives Belle permission to return home to look after her sick and dying father, before begging her to promise him that she will return or he will die and giving Belle a magical glove, which takes her to the place she most desires, and a magic mirror to show her where someone is. Upon her return of home, the sisters once again begin mocking Belle and steal her mirror and when looking into the mirror they see an ugly reflection staring back at them, a representation of their ugly hearts, though they would be generally considered attractive on the exterior. But when Belle has looked in the mirror before she sees her true persona, showing she is true of heart.
Belle's sisters try to scheme behind Belle's back in an attempt to kill the Beast after learning of his riches, causing Belle to stay longer at home than she intended, which starts to have its affect on the Beast and begins to kill him, as he warned, though her father starts to recover. Belle starts to worry for the Beast as she now cares for him and returns using the magic glove, but as she arrives though at first she struggles to find the Beast she eventually sees him near death, dying on the garden floor. As the Beast is dying the sister's scheme is still in effect as the man who wants to marry Belle, though she refused before because she didn't want to leave her father, tries to invade the Beast's secret room, for its treasures. But is instead shot by an arrow from a statue that lies within and is transformed into the Beast, but dies and the Beast that we know is transformed into a Princely figure and recovers. Showing that it is not appearance that determines a Beast but the pureness of heart and soul. Though confused at first Belle knows the man before her is the Beast as he has the same kind soul and they float off to the sky and live happily ever after.
In conclusion La Belle et La Bete is a visually enchanting, captivating and inspiring film. The costumes are beautiful and the makeup of the Beast is incredibly realistic, and the special effects are superb considering the time period it was in. The camera angle shots are used incredibly well at giving audiences a clear view of not only the situation and mind set of the character shown but also at making the world in this film seem highly fantastical, surreal and magical. The sets are beautifully designed and there is a great use of symbolism, reflecting the situation of the country at the time was built, inspiring its watchers. La Belle et La Bete has also been a highly influential film for modern fantasy and fairy tale stories, Disney's Beauty and the Beast would not be as captivating and magical as it is today without the help of this classic film.
Cannon, D La Belle et La Bete (1946) [Online] At: http://www.film.u-net.com/Movies/Reviews/Belle_Bete.html (Accessed on 7.11.13)
Ebert, R Beauty and the Beast (1946) [Online] At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-beauty-and-the-beast-1946 (Accessed on 7.11.13)
Grimm's Fairy Tales, Cinderella [Online] At: http://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/grimm/cinderella.html (Accessed on 7.11.13)
Miller, M Simple Twists of Fate [Online] At: http://www.villagevoice.com/2002-08-13/film/simple-twists-of-fate/ (Accessed on 7.11.13)
Fig.1 La Belle et La Bete (1946) [Poster Art] At: http://www.flickr.com/photos/truusbobjantoo/7421376570/ (Accessed on 7.11.13)
Fig.2 Sisters (1946) [Film Still] At: http://locotigrero.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/la-belle-et-la-bete-the-sisters.jpg (Accessed on 7.11.13)Fig.3 Belle in Garden [Film Still] At: http://www.thirdwaymagazine.co.uk/photos/ReviewsOct08La-Belle-et-la-bete.jpg (Accessed on 7.11.13)
Fig.4 Enchanted Castle [Film Still] At: http://morestarsthanintheheavens.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/belle-et-la-bete-1946-28-g.jpg (Accessed on 7.11.13)
Fig.5 Fireplace [Film Still] At: http://johnguycollick.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/fireplace.jpg (Accessed on 7.11.13)
Fig.6 Mise en Scene [Film Still] At: https://film110.pbworks.com/f/1254885117/B%26B1.jpg (Accessed on 7.11.13)
Fig.7 La Belle et La Bete [Film Still] At: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lswtdip2J51qzzxybo1_500.png (Accessed on 7.11.13)