Tristan + Isolde (2006) Poster

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A Timeless Love Tale Beautifully Retold!
lavatch13 January 2006
One of the great love stories from the medieval courtly romances, "Tristan and Isolde" has received many different treatments from medieval poets such as Gottfried of Strasbourg to the haunting opera by the nineteenth-century German composer Ricard Wagner. In each of the versions of the story, there are new and different plot details in this tragic love story.

In Kevin Reynolds' film adaptation, the most intriguing new twist from the traditional story is the way in which Tristan and Isolde meet. In this version, Tristan is given up for dead following a battle in Cornwall and washes ashore in Ireland in a boat only to be discovered by Isolde. She then uses her magical herbs to cure him. In Gottfried's medieval tale, the two young people drink a love potion from a goblet of wine. In this film, the young people fall instantly in love without any need of an elixir.

In two touching performances, the young lovers are played by James Franco and Sophia Myles. Their on-screen chemistry is electric, and their scenes together are filmed effectively by Reynolds in beautiful location settings. The film also explores themes of medieval chivalry and honor. Rufus Sewell delivers an excellent performance as King Mark caught in the love triangle that recalls the famous story of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guineviere.

There are also great action sequences in "Tristan and Isolde," including battles, tournaments, and medieval siege warfare. But the most memorable scenes are the intimate moments with Tristan and Isolde. Their fateful meeting and the unfolding of their relationship make this film worthwhile for audiences both familiar with the legend and for those being introduced to this timeless love story for the first time.
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Subtley impressive
acts212027 January 2006
I did not expect to like this film; the reviews were lackluster, and many seemed to think the leads were mediocre at best. I found the performances riveting and highly engaging. While I do not know the actual historical story, I found the storyline highly captivating.

I thought James Franco played Tristan brilliantly - broken hearted but not brooding, he seemed to only come to life during battle before meeting Isolde, and then afterward only in their stolen moments together. Many of the reviews I've read seem to think that he played the role flatly, but I thought the subtlety of expression in his eyes and body language was impressive. Confident as a warrior, but almost innocent in intimacy, I thought he walked the thin line between adult and youth effectively.

Sophia Myles captured the fire, vulnerability and desire of Isolde with fervor - and that's not easy to do. Myles delivered her lines subtly, tinting words with emotional depth -scorn, joy, passion, frustration, disappointment - that was understated and yet passionate. She, too, managed to portray a delicate balance between the innocence of idealistic youth and the realities of a woman who found her self in an unenviable position.

Rufus Sewell was fantastic. As king, he had to walk the thin line between diplomacy and his own frustrations; as a man, he came alive when with Isolde, and so her betrayal was all that more heartbreaking, a scene which he played with focus and power.

I thought the fight scenes were very well done, except for the excess of cut shots, jumping from person to person, which moved the action almost too quickly, occasionally resulting in a jagged flow of action. Overall, however, the battle scenes were very well done.

The costumes were incredible - not period realistic (especially Isolde's wedding gown) but they were beautiful and overall well designed to intimate the period but still have some glitz. The locations shots were awe-inspiring.

I LOVED these characters very shortly after they each came on screen. I rarely feel such a strong connection to characters, especially of period pieces, but each of the leads played their roles with finesse. I deeply cared about these people, seeing hope and joy rise in their eyes, only to see events quickly turn that joy to sorrow, and hope to forceful determination. Their moments of happiness are so brief, their heartbreak so complete that I found myself profoundly moved by their experiences. As deeply invested as I became with these characters, I nearly sobbed at the end of the movie. A 5-hankie tear jerker.

I eagerly await the release of the DVD, and expect to enjoy this film many times over.
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Tragic Lovestory with plenty of Action
Calus13 December 2005
Tristan and Isolde is one of the most enjoyable films I've seen this year. I saw it in a preview screening without knowing anything about the film or the myth. I expected a mediocre romance, only hoping that it would be set in an interesting medieval setting and that my girlfriend would enjoy it. Well it is a story of love, but also so much more. The film has a dark undertone to it and every character is torn between hard choices of power, loyalty, friendship and in Tristan's case, love. There is plenty of both tragedy and love and although very dramatic I never felt it was being too sentimental. The battle scenes are very well done. Although realism is sometimes sacrificed for dramatic impact, this works very well for the film. Most importantly there are no invulnerable heroes. Everyone is in immediate danger of mutilation and death, making the fight scenes more intense. The casting of Tristan, Isolde and Lord Marke is perfect and most of the supporting cast do an equally great job. The absence of any Hollywood superstars makes the film all that much better. Enjoy.
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A beautiful, exciting, and heart wrenching tale of impossible love
nats_always_write14 January 2006
Beautiful, full of emotion and moving. The characters are portrayed skillfully and are generally believable - they fit into the legend but aren't overly heroic. Not overdone. The love between Tristan and Isolde is so powerful that it's impossible not to feel for them, but it is also impossible not to feel bad for the King, who is deeply in love with Isolde as well. The film's main departure from the traditional story is it's decision to leave out the love potion between T+I, which for modern audiences is a smart choice; it makes the whole relationship appear more 'authentic.' This is also one of Rufus Sewell's only' sympathetic roles, and it's a treat to see him play someone we don't automatically hate. The real heart-wrencher comes from watching the love grow between T+I while their obstacles grow larger. The movie also had some great battle scenes, just violent enough without going for the gross-out factor, convincing but not painful to watch (for most). And like most good dramatic movies it's not completely without humor, there are definitely some moments that make you laugh, or at least smile. Overall, it is one of the best romantic historical movies I have seen in a very long time. This movie is sure to make the entire female population fall in love with James Franco, and it's story is unforgettable.
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Very good...what else is there to say?
the_fuct_up_one2117 January 2006
I must say that I didn't even originally plan on going to this movie, but after I was asked by a friend to see it on its opening night, I said that sure, I would go. I figured that it would be alright, nothing more than mediocre at the most, but this movie was amazingly wonderful.

I have heard many people's comments on how they didn't like it because "Myles' accent was completely wrong," "the chemistry between Franco and Myles was horrible," "it didn't even follow the original story," and many other miscellaneous things. While the story line was changed a little from the original story, I believe that it was still good. And come on, how many times does Hollywood actually stick to the original story anyway? I think that the way the story went was much easier for people who were not familiar with the story of Tristan and Isolde to follow.

Further, I thought that Myles did a wonderful job with her accents. I found it very easy to differentiate between the Irish and the English.

And lastly, I found the chemistry between Myles and Franco to be simply wonderful. They really showed me that the characters were truly in love; it was compelling and deep, put together for a very good movie.

I can honestly say that this is one of the best movies I have seen in a while; it was not the watered-down relationship kind of thing that comes from Hollywood most of the time. From the battles to the most intimate of scenes, it stayed simple; not the high-tech kind of thing that you would usually see. There were some parts meant to be funny, some meant to be sad, and the movie averaged out to give you the best of both. I will tell you that in its opening weekend I saw it more than once, something that I would usually never do. It's a movie that gets better and better each time you see it; one where you pick out things each time that you had not seen before.

Simply put, this is a wonderful movie. I loved it, but I would not recommend going if you're just going because you think that James Franco is hott! I know some people who didn't like it, I won't lie, but if you come to the movie with an open mind and know that some things are going to be different, you will absolutely love it, as I did.
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A love story that packs a powerful punch.
SmileysWorld23 January 2006
There are love stories,and then there are love stories that pack a powerful punch.Tristan and Isolde indeed falls in the latter category. I must confess to not being an avid watcher of romance films,and was expecting not to enjoy much,if any of this film at all.I came away pleasantly surprised,as this film has a power that is hard not to acknowledge.It is two love stories in one.An English warrior is torn between the love of a woman from a country with which they are at war, and the man to which he owes his very life.The problem is,his two loves are sworn to one another,though not by the lady's choosing.The story is told well,and the film beautifully done.As of this writing,it is still in theaters and is worthy of the admission price,not to mention a worthwhile future rental.
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i fell in love.
Bec_kah1314 January 2006
Tristan & Isolde was basically the best Love story that I have seen in a good while. Better than the Notebook, better than Romeo & Juliet, better than anything you could imagine. I went into the movie realizing that I would shed a few tears, it is a given with me and love stories. I did not know that this movie would cause me to sob severely and to really fall in love with Tristan & Isolde. This movie can not even be exclaimed, it truly is a work of art. I went with a couple girl friends, and in the car ride home this movie was all we could talk about. The parallels between it and Romeo & Juliet are apparent, yet this love story seems to be more passionate and true love. The actors and actresses really gave off the impression that they were in love and troubled by all of the heartache they must overcome. Even though it is 2 hours long, I lost track of time and all sense of my surroundings. This movie both captures and captivates the audience. A must see...
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Great story, thought provoking
ArizWldcat13 January 2006
I have to admit that I do not remember much about this story from my college Western Civ class, but I enjoyed this director's work in other films, so I took a chance. What a lovely film! The story is well told, paced well, and full of thought provoking moments. I found the leads, particularly Sophie Myles, who plays Isolde, to be mesmerizing in their roles. The supporting cast is also terrific. I know this won't be for everyone, but it's also not strictly a chick flick. There's plenty of war scenes, adventure, action, etc. to keep those action film fans happy, and yet there's a lot of good love stories, and not just between the two leads as you might expect. I recommend this one!
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Loved It!
emillerd-115 January 2006
I took my GF to it last night. It was her birthday and she had the pick of which movie to see. I had not seen any of the trailers for it and was told it was a romance. What I saw was not at all what I expected! Set back when there were Kings and Lords, it kept me entertained through the whole 2 hrs! There were several lesser name actors that I recognized which made it even more appealing. No huge stars overacting! I've been told that the movie does not follow the fable exactly, but I had never heard the fable so I can't verify this. Not an action flick like Gladiator or Troy, but if you like that era this is a movie for you!
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Sophia Myles is the reason to watch this movie
krawczykk208 January 2006
Sophia Myles is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous actresses ever to appear on screen, and most people's ideal image of what Isolde should look like. The scenery is breathtaking, the cinematography stunning, and the costumes remarkably authentic. Kevin Reynolds, who has a proved track record with making accessible period films (Count of Monte Cristo), mercifully gives the film a believability that is missing in most modern historical films.

This is not an adaptation of the Wagner opera, nor a retelling of any specific version of the tale, but a distillation of its strongest elements. The absence of magical elements is a strength, as it was in Petersen's Troy.

The actor playing Tristan is acceptable, neither spectacular nor awful, but plays the part well enough not to distract from the other fine elements in the film.

Overall, a remarkably successful film, and the only shame is that it hasn't received wider publicity.
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Romantic but flawed
Spaceygirl3 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
One of the most romantic stories ever told is brought to the big-screen in this adaptation of "Tristan & Isolde". It's okay..I wouldn't rave about it, but it's kept afloat purely on the performance of the rather marvellous Rufus Sewell. He shines in his role as Marke, a person who just wants to do the right thing and be a good person. Sophia Myles and James Franco are woefully miscast, their accents waver and they don't have much chemistry to play star-crossed lovers. The film is also filled with factual Irish Princess using stirrups, a reference to the "Celts" early in the film, the reference to the "English" and "England" long before these expressions were even invented! Less fussy viewers than I might find it mildly entertaining, but with errors like this I just found it irritating. The story itself is wonderful though but I would recommend the operatic version instead of this lite version.
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klinkj12 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I am going to have to join with the minority of those who have commented on this film and say that I just didn't really like it.

Frankly, it didn't seem like the story was developed in a way that lent any real reason for sympathy to the "love" of Tristan and Isolde.

A message hammered home over and over again in the movie is that "love" is above all other things, able to conquer even death.

The words honor and duty are mentioned as well, but given lip service only, it seemed to me.

I came out of the movie solidly on the side of King Mark. His character was 10 times more sympathetic than that of the two lovers. Heck, I wanted to marry him!

Perhaps if there had been a potion, as in the stories, that explained this terrible attraction between the two. Or more believable reasons and/or interactions shown on screen for them falling in love. Then I would have felt the tragedy on both sides.

But as it stands, the lovers came off as selfish. Determined to have their "love" no matter who it hurt or what it threatened. Such risks in storytelling can be taken and they can work - but only if the characters make it work.

On the other hand, Rufus Sewell did an amazing job and was the one thing I truly enjoyed about the movie. Everything else was kind of "blah". Which is ironic really since when I read the original stories of Tristan and Isolde, Mark comes off as anything but a nice character.

My main feelings when it became obvious that Tristan was going to die in battle - serving and saving King Mark - were that of relief. It seemed the only possible way that Tristan could redeem what was left of his honor, his dignity as a human being and as Mark's adopted son.

Not the emotion you would expect to feel towards the "hero" of the film.

All in all, not something I will probably watch again.
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Beautiful and Tragic Romance, Wonderful Movie
Claudio Carvalho16 January 2007
In the Dark Ages, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the weak Britain is divided in several clans, while the powerful Ireland, untouched by Romans, dominates and spoils the British tribes. The fair and noble British leader Marke (Rufus Sewell) meets with the other chiefs trying to unite their country, but they are attacked and slaughtered by the Irish army leaded by Morholt (Graham Mullins). Marke looses one hand protecting the young Tristan, who had just lost his parents, and he raises the boy as if he were of his blood. Years later, after another attack of the Irish forces, Tristan (James Franco) rescues his people that were captured to serve as slaves and kills the mean Morholt, for whom the beautiful Irish princess Isolde (Sophia Myles) was promised to get married. Tristan is poisoned by the sword of Morholt, declared dead by his mates, and is put on a boat for the funeral services. Isolde finds the boat with Tristan in an Irish beach with her maid-servant Bragnae (Bronagh Gallagher), she saves him and along the days they fall in love for each other. When Tristan returns to Britain, Isolde lies about her name. Her father, King Donnchadh (David Patrick O'Hara), together with the traitor Wictred (Mark Strong), decides to promote a joust, to divide the British and make Wictred king, promising the hand of Isolde to the winner, but Tristan wins the tournament. Without knowing that Isolde is his love, Tristan offers her to Marke, to promote the union of Britain. When he sees who Isolde is, he has to decide between his friendship and loyalty to Marke and his love for Isolde.

This is the first time that I see the poignant story of "Tristan + Isolde" and I loved this movie. It is perfect: a beautiful and tragic romance in magnificent landscapes and scenarios; excellent screenplay, with adequate pace and development of characters; wonderful direction, art direction, costumes, music score and cinematography. The cast is stunning, highlighting the adorable Sophia Myles. I have just included "Tristan + Isolde" is the list of my favorite movies. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Tristão e Isolda" ("Tristan and Isolde")
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Great passion of heroes and viewers! Lovely film!
Marcin Kukuczka25 June 2006
"Love is made by God, all the rest (honor, riches, courage) are just shadows of life and happiness"

If people hear "a classic story of passionate love", this usually makes them think of ROMEO AND JULIET. Yet, fewer of them know that there had been TRISTAN AND ISOLDE before...a passionate couple who were exposed to living in a wrong place at a wrong time. And while the former love story has had many famous screen adaptations, the latter one was not that famous in cinema, except for some barely famous adaptations like Fabrizio Costa's IL CUORE E LA SPADA (1998). Yet, at the beginning of the 21 century, this story is put on screen by the director of two great epic films: ROBIN HOOD - PRINCE OF THIEVES (1991) and THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (2002).

When TRISTAN AND ISOLDE was released in Poland in June 2006, a lot of people went to see it. As everywhere else, they had different intentions, some did it out of curiosity, some others due to cast, yet some others due to being fond of epic spectacles. When I went to see it, I expected a good film but ... it surprised me as an excellent film. Although the movie is not very faithful to the original story, it is a highly entertaining movie which may be considered one of the best early medieval epics. Why? Because of a number of reasons.

TRISTAN AND ISOLDE can boast exceptionally delicate portrayal of love. Reynolds skips the magic and fantasy that appears in the original and there is no love elixir, no dragon, no "two Isoldes" in his film. Yet, the director does not show the love of the two main characters as sexual desires only but rather as affectionate feelings and emotions. Nevertheless, there are moments of highly powerful sensuality and the chemistry between the cast adds a thrill to it. The symbolic final shot is particularly powerful and memorable. Tristan is dying and Isolde is by his side. In the background, we can see a running river that appears to symbolize the running time.

Besides, the action and historical period presentation are very skillfully made. The whole film is filled with very logical sequences that make watching it enjoyable. The focus on the divided 5th century-Britain, the British relations with the Irish, the widespread love to honor promoted so much then create strong bases for understanding of what the entire film is about. The filming locations (Iveragh Peninsula in Ireland) constitute another advantage in this case. I liked most of the scenes from the very first shot of a rabbit and small Tristan, through the following moment that shows a map of the British Isles of that time moving to Ireland where small Isolde weeps on a funeral of her queen mother to the very last shot when two lovers are separated by death. A flow of action is worth attention.

The performances are fine. But though it may seem surprising, these are not James Franco and Sophia Myles that are most memorable, in my opinion. I admit that they are good and fit to the roles (particularly Myles with her delicacy and female charm), but they still leave much to wish. I loved the performance of David O'Hara as king Donnchadh. He is perfect as an honorable king for whom a good name and power mean more than anything else on earth. I also fancied Graham Mullins as giant Morholt (not an actor of profession) and Rufus Sewell as Lord Marke. Marke's love scenes with Isolde are perfectly contrasted with Tristan's thanks to performances and camera work. Who can forget the face of Lord Marke when he finds out the truth about Isolde's secret meetings? Great performances from the supporting cast!

The costumes by Maurizio Millenotti, famous for many other epics since the 1960s, are very accurate for the period presented in the movie. Although this aspect may seem not that important, it is significant for such an epic as TRISTAN AND ISOLDE is. Costumes highly make for an enjoyable epic. I particularly liked the wedding scene - it's charming to see a bride on a wedding boat in a lovely veil. Maybe sentimental but beautiful.

Also, it is important to mention realistic scenes of fights. They are not very violent but brutal enough to be historically accurate. We see an attack on a village, burning of houses, combats in forests, slaying the captives. But foremost, a must see is a scene of a tournament! The weapon that is showed is a perfect historical accuracy of the time. Of course, there is no equal grandeur and splendor in the fights that took place in Britain than in those of great empires of the time. Yet, we must not forget that it is early Middle Ages... Tristan (James Franco)-Wictred (Mark Strong) fight is lively and natural.

Finally, I have to mention one more aspect of the movie that is a pearl to me. It is its reflection of love. "Love conquers all" and if there is something that may conquer death, it is LOVE. May seem repetitive, but if something is true, isn't it necessary to keep saying on and on? This aspect makes the epic universal and can be admired by different viewers, even the ones who cannot stand sword and sandal productions.

TRISTAN AND ISOLDE is a wonderful film that I recommend anyone to see. it is a love story, it is an epic, it is a psychological film and a historical outline of that distant past. Passion of heroes and viewers highly worth seeing! 9/10!
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A low-budget wonder
dewboy3081615 January 2006
O.k., I'm not really familiar with swords-and-sandals movies, but I do read a lot of movie reviews. Based on what I have read, recent movies like Troy and Alexander made the mistake of becoming cocky.

"Mistake" might not actually be the best word, but it applies in their case. They sought to be great films, shooting for the stars. When that happens there can be no middle ground, you fly or you flop, and they flopped. Troy created huge battle scenes filled with men that looked like ants, and Alexander had Colin Ferrel acting like he was the next Gibson and was making the next Braveheart (once again, I'd like to emphasize that these are not my opinions, just second-hand information. For all I know it could all be BS).

Anyway, it's safe to say that Triston and Isolde does not make these mistakes. Thanks, mainly, to the relatively low budget. I don't think that anyone involved with this movie thought for a second that they were making Braveheart, and because if it they never became overconfident and got sloppy. Every seen is well shot, directed, and acted. The script is written in a way that makes logical sense, and the editing continues in this tradition.

Probably the biggest advantage this movie has is the time frame. This isn't a movie about great conquerors. The "kings" in this movie are little more than tribal chieftains fighting over what Rome left behind. The armies they lead are small. The castles are small. The fleets are small. Everything is small. But the story reflects the production. Just because Triston isn't leading the Greeks against Troy isn't an excuse for him to fight any less fiercely. The men in this movie fight as valiantly in small skirmishes of a few dozen as the men in more epic movies do in gigantic battles. These men are fighting for their homes and kings, and to them these battles are as great as any others.

Most importantly, this movie has a heart. The characters are not the most complex in history, but they have complexity enough for the story. More importantly, rather than blowing the casting budget on one or two big names, and hiring crappy actors to play everyone else, the director cast relative unknowns with real talent. These actors took their roles, and did their jobs. They did not try to steal the screen, and become the next Gibson. They told the story they were hired to tell, and tried to put as much emotion as possible into their character.

In the end, Tristan and Isolde is a movie that accepts the fact that it will never be a great movie, and settles for being a good movie. It finds middle ground in the movie world, and accomplishes what it sets out to do.
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cinematography, art direction, and legend
pookey5611 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
i have been intrigued by the legends surrounding Tristan and Isolde since i was very young, and when this film was released, i avoided it for a time because i knew how tragic the stories are, in each version i've read. but, finally, i could resist no longer and rented it. i was completely surprised by the visual beauty of the film! i was also very interested in how the legend would be portrayed. would T & I drink the love potion? or would Isolde heal his wounds with her herbal medicines? would Tristan marry the other Isolde? would it be Tristan who dies, first, or Isolde? would Arthur turn up with his knights of the round table? would Isolde at first try to have her loyal assistant assassinated to keep their secret? so many questions! no one now knows what really happened, just that it did happen. what mattered here for me was whether Franco and Myles would have the chemistry to make this tragic legend seem credible; would their timeless love shine through? for me, it did. remarkably so. and i found that i did not care whether the story stayed true to one of the versions found in history. i was glad to see Sewell in the role of King Mark, and not Clive Owen. this period of history is my favorite, when the British isles were cleaved, and the Romans, although still around, had retreated. Kevin Reynolds did a great job with this film. I recognized his name from his early work, Fandango, and i'm glad i put my fear aside and watched this film. Normally, i am not a big fan of tragedies, but my love for this history overcame my reluctance. Even if Ridley Scott had directed this film way back when, i am not convinced that he would have made a more visually stunning film. and that's saying a lot. I cried harder watching Broke Back Mountain...i mention this for all film fans reluctant to watch tragedies. The love shown between T & I rang true. it was heart breaking, and it was magnificent too. All seem to agree that Tristan was a great fighter, and the action sequences were very good. if art direction, cinematography, and period epics are part of your viewing enjoyment, then i highly recommend this film. throw in passion and love, and the human condition, and you have a truly rich tapestry to absorb.
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Excellent movie
Natasha29 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I fell in love with this movie when I saw the poster in theatre, and now that I've actually seen it, it's become my favorite movie of all time.

The actors are absolutely fantastic in their roles. James Franco plays the brooding young man very well, and portrayed Tristan's emotional battle with himself very well. The audience can see how much Tristan loves Marke, as a father and best friend, yet it's also obvious how much he loves Isolde and wishes to be with her. He fights it for awhile, but gives in ultimately. Sophia Myles portrays Isolde perfectly, as being in love with Tristan but also not harboring any ill will towards Marke because Marke IS a good man.

The triangle was dealt with very well. I liked how none of the characters involved, Marke, Isolde and Tristan, were made out to be the bad guys. The audience, ultimately, wanted Tristan and Isolde together but we also couldn't hate Marke because he did not know of the two of them, and he didn't mistreat Isolde. He loved her, too.

Fantastic movie, fantastic love story. I'd recommend it to anyone.
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Yet more pseudo historical garbage
Fat Freddy's Cat3 August 2006
In recent times I have been subjected to both this movie and "King Arthur", on DVDs chosen by others for an evening's "entertainment" and together they achieve nothing more than bearing out a growing notion I have that the modern movie-watching public totally lacks discrimination, and is content as long as they get "action". Both movies were utter rubbish.

Whatever happened to character development? Whatever happened to meaningful dialogue? Whatever happened to ACTING? And, when watching something that vaguely purports to be "historical", whatever happened to attempting to capture some measure of accuracy, some realistic idea of the "political map" of the time, even some slight flavour of the era, especially in its social attitudes. Why do they all have to display the value set of 21st century America? I have read on the message boards of disclaimers that "little was known" of the dark ages. Not so. Considerable amounts are known, with much learned scholarship on the era, but these jokers simply couldn't be bothered to do any homework.

I only wish I could vote 0/10
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pallid tale of unrequited love
Roland E. Zwick18 May 2006
Like "Romeo and Juliet," "Tristan and Isolde" is a tale of forbidden love set in the Middle Ages (although it far predates Shakespeare's work both in setting and in origin). In this case, the two young lovers are separated along national lines, with Tristan a young Briton, and Isolde nothing less than the princess of Ireland. As their two countries do battle against one another, the benighted couple tries desperately to make their love work in a bitterly hostile world.

This is a handsome, well-crafted film, glorious to look at but tedious to sit through. Since we've seen so many of these tales already, it's a little hard for us to work up much passion for this one - even if, as we're told, the fate of an entire kingdom hangs on this relationship. Moreover, there is such a profusion of Angles, Saxons, Irish etc. running around on screen that it is often difficult to distinguish one from the other and to know just who is fighting whom (or who is allied with whom) at any given moment.

James Franco and Sophia Myles make for a fairly bland, conventionally modern young couple, but Rufus Sewell provides a subtle, sympathetic performance as the man who both raises Tristan and marries Isolde.

If Medieval romances are your cup of tea, by all means check out "Tristan and Isolde," but there are far better tales of unrequited love around than this one.
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Avoid! Avoid! Yet Again Avoid!
Aidan Connolly4 May 2006
Did Dean Georgaris even think to pick up a history book when he sat down to write this story? Did he ever think to ask someone from Ireland or England how plausible the story might be? There is so much to this movie that is just wrong, the locations are wrong, the costumes are from a different period, the equipment used by the Irish characters is completely inaccurate, and when you take the love story out of the plot it makes no sense even as a war movie it would never have happened. If this film were set in some galaxy far, far away, it might be good. The love story itself is spot on, it's got all the casual clichés, but as I watched I couldn't help but think, I've seen this before, it's as if the writers took the key to the patents office and thought they might re-write the legend of King Arthur and flog it as something different. Avoid this movie.
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Excellent Dramatisation of the Conflict Between Duty and Desire
quickquirk3 May 2006
Tristan and Isolde, at first glance, seems a mediocre and over-the- top reworking of an ancient tale of atypical star-crossed lovers.

That was what I thought before I watched it. After watching it, however, I was impressed with the movie – for a variety of reasons. Although the love storyline was quite tried and tested, I believe the movie managed to stand out from most love stories that I've watched lately because of its strong themes of loyalty, honour and duty, as opposed to an indulgent tale of lovers getting it on with wild abandon. There is a direct conflict between "duty" and "desire" in this movie – to quote Shakespeare. Duty would be Tristan's very moving, unquestioning and complete loyalty to his saviour and benefactor – Lord Marke (a convincing Rufus Sewell). Desire, quite obviously comes in the form of the lovely Isolde (Sophia Myles). However, everything goes terribly awry as exceedingly bad timing (or is it fate?) and circumstance combine to present Tristan with the most heart- wrenching dilemma and personal crisis in his 20 (I presume) years of life.

It is this conflict that is at the crux of the movie and what makes it compelling. It is something that everyone can empathize with and to have it dramatised in a movie with a setting that alternates between England and Ireland, and two talented, good-looking leads is obviously a step in the right direction. I confess that while Sophia Myles delivered an animated, lively performance in the first half of the movie (as well as the rest of it), James Franco seemed rather vague and faraway in the first half, as if he had not quite settled into the demands and grasped the "feel" of the role. However, we could also attribute some of this to the necessity to portray Tristan's repressed nature. As a result, the climax building up to their first love scene was slightly tepid and not quite as sizzling as I'd have expected (or liked). However, the audience has little time to contemplate this as Tristan makes a quick escape from Ireland, sweeping the movie along. After that however, there is a faltering of this momentum when Tristan gets reunited with Lord Marke, who thought he was dead. But later, immediately after he realizes that in a cruel twist that he has actually won Isolde for his very benefactor, and that he must live in the constant torture of seeing his love wedded to someone else in the same household, the pace of the movie instantly picks up and the audience's sympathy is secured permanently.

It is here that Franco truly comes into his own and delivers a stellar performance. His confused eyes speak volumes and reveal the depth of his misery every time he lays eyes on the so-near-yet-so-far Isolde. She in turn, is also equally tortured, coupled with a desperation that seeks to make Tristan abandon his code of honour to Lord Marke and give in to his feelings. The pace from this point on never slackens, as instinctively the audience knows that a sure betrayal will take place, as well as an explosive exposition. The movie is crafted in such a way that one feels extremely sorry for the lovers – as they are victims of circumstance entwined in political intrigue. It is also apparent that Tristan has tried his darnedest to deny himself of the only thing he longs for but cannot get.

Myles also does a good job of portraying a woman who has to sleep with a man she does not love but does not detest, and who has no access to the one man she truly wants to be with. Another great aspect of the movie is the poignant relationship between Tristan and Lord Marke. Because he owes him his very life, Tristan has long ago pledged undying loyalty to Lord Marke – giving him his very life to do with it what he pleases. He is Marke's best knight and most loved 'son'. It is the strength of this relationship that makes the betrayal even more painful for Lord Marke and stirring for the audience. The ill-fated vibe of this affair hangs ominously in the movie and one is long forewarned of the ending before it arrives.

However, when the ending does arrive and when the movie draws to a close, it is still extremely moving and one can't help feeling pained at the state of things. All in all, this is an extremely enjoyable movie, with strong performances from Franco, Myles and Sewell. Elegant, heartfelt and fast-paced, this movie makes one feel as if the lovers' plight could have happened to oneself. Watch it if you have the chance.
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Bad acting killed Tristan!
conniegunter2-125 March 2006
Wagner's Tristan und Isolde is my favorite opera. I couldn't wait to see the movie, now I wish I had not seen it! That had to be the worst acting I have ever seen on the big screen. I kept wishing that the actor who played Melot would have gotten the lead role. There were points where I was groaning it was so painful to watch the Prozac Prince trying to act. The girl playing Isolde was pretty good and King Marke was dead on. The locations were beautiful and beautifully shot. I was not crazy about the script, but there are about 100 versions of the story so I understand the difficulty in writing that script. I so wanted to love this movie! I wanted others to love the story the way I do. Alas, I must content myself with Wagner and hope others hear the story in history class.
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Kevin Reynolds owes me two hours of my life
newsgoat4 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Seriously, Kevin Reynolds should be banned from directing movies ever again !!! I suppose I have myself to blame for giving him another chance after Robin Hood, prince of whines, but really!!! Shame also on a supporting cast of capable actors for taking the money and running (except Rufus Sewell, who at least tried). I should have known a minute into the movie that it wasn't any good, the Monty Pythonesque title Britain, the Dark Ages was unintentionally funny and young Tristan hunting a rabbit (introduced by the Normans in the 11th century, 500 odd years after the story takes place) was another giveaway. It's okay to situate a legendary story in a fantasy setting, but only if you do not pretend to put in historical references as well(why would the Romans paint mummy portraits from Egypt under their old bridge anyway?) James Franco has only one expression (pained) and is completely unconvincing as a passionate lover. Sophia Myles is pretty and ..well, pretty. Next time I see the name Kevin Reynolds attached to a movie, I will avoid it since he seems incapable of turning even a tried and tested exciting and heartbreaking story into something good.
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So much potential... So much waste.
tnhelliott12 May 2006
I had high hopes for this film...I really did. I love the actors and I have loved the story since I first read a translation in 1999. This film unfortunately really let me down. The action that is promised in the previews is weak and poorly choreographed. The emotions seem forced and untrue. The only thing that this movie has is a brilliant performance by Rufus Sewell. He is the reason that I do not rate lower than I do. Mr. Sewell's performance is perfect. That of the conflicted leader and passionate sage to Tristan. There are way too many clichés in this film to name or even to pretend that there is an original moment throughout. If I wanted to watch a farce made of tradition and epic poetry, I would have watched a Knights Tale. At least then I would have been entertained.
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