Christophe Gans offers up a richly realized and absolutely beautiful vision of “Beauty and the Beast” that embraces the dark side and fantasy of the original story. While yes, Belle begins to fall In love with the Beast, and is even enticed by him, it’s also thanks his aggression and insistence on influencing her Stockholm syndrome. Belle does eventually find the beauty of living with the beast, in that she’s able to roam his massive castle and is capable of finding secrets and fun corners within it. She even plays hide and seek with dog like creatures that find a fascination with Belle. Gans’ direction is superb and absolutely mesmerizing, I can not stress that enough. Many of his wide shots, and pans are magnificent and he knows how to make the beast both enigmatic and terrifying. There’s even a marvelous moment where the Beast is looking out on to an invading army from his perch, resembling Lon Chaney from “Phantom of the Opera.”
When Belle’s father is in debt by horrific collector’s he flees and ends up at the Beast’s castle looking for food and shelter. When he attempts to take one of his sacred roses, Beast insists he returns as payment for the rose, or else he’ll murder his entire family. To help her father, Belle goes in his place, and submits herself as Beast’s prisoner within the walls of the massive castle. But as she finds herself whisked away in what is a truly supernatural and fantastic place, the collector’s come to his doorstep looking for his riches. The story of “Beauty and the Beast” is a powerful and dark one, but that also finds its whimsy in Belle learning to appreciate the semblance of humanity within the beast. Vincent Cassel is very good as the Beast who was cursed by the God of nature after hunting down a deer in the forest. Sadly, the deer was his beloved girlfriend who was a supernatural and his cruelty toward her turned him in to a literal monster.
Lea Seydoux is absolutely stunning as Belle, the blond beauty whose devotion to her father is compelling, especially when she refuses to let the beast intimidate her time and time again. “Beauty and the Beast” is a different kind of angle on the classic fairytale and one that is dark and kind of disturbing and barely romanticizes the themes that Disney has. Director Gans does manage to find some kind of eroticism from Beast’s form, especially when he confronts Bell on a frozen lake, mounting her and threatening her. Otherwise, this is a movie more for the audience that loves dark fantasy and art house, as Gans elicits a plethora of menacing plot elements, including a giant horrendous living statue, I really did find a lot to enjoy with Gans’ interpretation of “Beauty and the Beast” and I hope audiences give it a chance.
Shout Factory treats audiences with a very good series of features including an interview with director Christophe Gans, who discusses the story’s mass appeal, the film’s source material, themes, and symbolism, as well as the technical stuff like green screen, and casting. There’s a fifteen minute interview with Vincent Cassel who discusses his familiarity with the story, his digital make up as the beast, and the green screen he worked with. There’s an interview with Lea Seydoux, who discusses how she was cast, her love of fairy tales, the film’s costume work and the special effects. Finally, there’s the original HD theatrical trailer with Dubbed English.