12 May 2006

Tristan & Isolde

I don't really understand why, but I just didn't enjoy Tristan & Isolde as much as I hoped I would. I wanted to like it, I really did. It had all the right elements - an epic story, a beautiful medieval setting, sword fights and a director that has a flair for costume dramas (The Count of Monte Cristo), but by the end I just felt a bit, well, apathetic I suppose. It's like I just didn't really care what happened to most of the characters.

The one notable exception was Rufus Sewell's Lord Marke. I'm so used to him playing the stereotypical villain, that the sympathetic nature of his character as well as his tender yet powerful portrayal here was a pleasant surprise.

I didn't really know much about the story going in, except that it is compared to Romeo & Juliet and is also a Wagner opera, and thus would probably have a suitably tragic ending. This version deviates somewhat from the original, but that is to be expected, since there is so many versions of the legend already. It goes for a more 'historical' approach, similar to 'King Arthur', and dispenses with all the magical/mystical elements.

Perhaps the problem was the lead actor, James Franco. I actually noticed his accent faltering at stages (usually I'm too engrossed in the story to notice things like that on a first viewing) and even though he looked the part, he just didn't have enough screen presence or charisma to carry a big film like this. He was just too stoic. I think in the end, Melot's death had a bigger impact on me than Tristan's. That can't be right, can it?
However, I did enjoy Thomas Sangster as the young Tristan.

Another thing that bothered me was the music. It wasn't necessarily bad, it was just completely unmemorable. I honestly can't even remember there being any music, other than in the dancing scenes. I know that a lack of music can be very powerful, the shining examples being 'Before Sunset' and the Buffy episode 'The Body', but epics like this needs a powerful score. In some movies the music plays as important a part as any of the actors, leaving the main theme spinning in your head for hours after the end credits have rolled. Here that grandness is just missing, taking with it a lot of the emotion.

One thing that really bothered me was the fact there is no known antidote to pufferfish poison, tetrodotoxin. It does cause paralysis and hypotension (low blood pressure), so a victim could appear dead, but this is also usually followed by respiratory failure, so it is unlikely that they would survive in that state for very long. I'm also not too sure how a medieval Irish warrior would have obtained such a poison.

Another thing is that the early medieval timeframe for the movie makes it impossible for Isolde to be able to read John Donne's "The Good Morrow," since it is a work of the 17th century.

I'm sure the movie might not be as bad as this review is making it seem. My hopes for a film to equal the likes of Gladiator and Braveheart was just misplaced, and because of that the problems in the production just bothered me more than usual. Oh, well.

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Blogger Violet said...

Not that I was thinking of seeing this movie, but you've put me off alright. It sounds like a badly-researched attempt at bringing a legend to life.

11:36 AM, May 13, 2006  

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