During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
Adélaïde, Belle, Félicie and Ludovic are young adult siblings who once lived in grandeur until their father's merchant ships were lost at sea. The family is now near ruin, but Adélaïde and Félicie nonetheless still squander away the family money on themselves and keeping beautiful, whereas Belle slaves around the house, doting on her father. Ludovic detests his two spoiled sisters, but is protective of Belle, especially with his friend Avenant, a handsome scoundrel who wants to marry Belle. Crossing the forest one dark and stormy evening, the father gets lost and takes refuge in a fantastical castle. Upon leaving, he steals a blossom off a rose bush, which Belle requested. The castle's resident, an angry beast, sentences him to one of two options for the theft of the rose: his own death, or that of one of his daughters. As she feels she is the cause of her father's predicament (despite her sisters asking for far more lavish gifts), Belle sacrifices herself to the beast. Upon arriving ... Written by
The look and decor of the film was influenced by the work of nineteenth-century artist and engraver Gustave Doré, most famous for illustrating a famous nineteenth century French edition of "Don Quixote". Doré's illustrations for that novel are so famous that they continue to be reprinted even today. See more »
Boom visible at the top of the picture during the entire scene when Ludovic and Avenant first approach Diane's pavilion. See more »
Belle, you mustn't look into my eyes. You needn't fear. You will never see me, except each evening at 7:00, when you will dine, and I will come to the great hall. And never look into my eyes.
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The title and some of the opening credits are written with chalk on a blackboard, and then erased. See more »
Prominent sociologist Bruno Bettleheim believes that the fairy tale has a very important role in the socialization process of children. Each fairy tale addresses a fear they must overcome; Hansel and Gretel addresses the fear of abandonment, Little Red Riding Hood the fear of the `wolf' in the bed sheets, and Beauty and the Beast the similar fear of the `beast' in men that virgin women face on their wedding night. These tales illustrating the effective resolution of possible threats are very important to natural development.
Cocteau's attempt to socialize his female viewers and alleviate their fear of sex is clear through textual analysis. The mirror that Beauty peers into her first night at the castle shows a reflection of her father where her own self-reflection should have been, indicating that she is still very much defined by the dominant male role in her life. Almost immediately after, the bed sheets slide off the bed in a provocative manner, portending future threat, and she runs away repulsed. She confronts the Beast, and promptly faints. This scene establishes her fear and immaturity; however, Beauty and the Beast become progressively closer through the film, holding hands and talking. During her visit to her family, he caresses and wraps himself in her blanket, another reference to his association with her bed. When she decides she has remained at home too long, she lies on her bed and looks at the beast in the mirror's reflection. This is the point of transition, where she links this new dominant male figure to her bed. Instead of being repulsed by his reflection, she lovingly caresses the mirror and returns to him. In order to do this she slips on his glove, perhaps a reference to condoms. His glove is a perfect fit, displaying their perfect compatibility.
The Cocteau version of Beauty and the Beast also addresses the dual nature of masculinity where good and evil coexisted, and the lines of differentiation are increasingly blurred. He emphasizes his statement that man and beast are indistinguishable by casting Jean Marais in both roles. Beauty comments upon this, when she tells the prince that he reminds her of a friend of her brother's. The fine distinction between the two characters is the prince's inner beauty as well as outer. When the brother's friend becomes greedy, he transforms into a beast so his inner ugliness and outer appearance coincide.
Socialization of Beauty remains central despite two forms of masculinity because the two never meet, so Beauty's choice between the two is central. The film is about the distinctions between men, and the importance of picking the right one. Since both the friend and the prince have the same attractive male face, the lesson is to hold out for the true prince who is good and noble on the inside as well as attractive.
As the Beast-turned-prince reclaims himself at the end of Cocteau's film, the message the audience should take away is that love can cure any ugliness and make any beast a man. The interchangeability is evident and the choice important. Beauty loves the Beast, overcoming her fear of the beastly in marriage and claiming she will get used to him, the reality of a man. Beauty makes a gradual transition from love of her father to a husband, as portrayed in her mirrors depicting her core identity.
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