Monday, August 28, 2006

My "Late To The Party" DVD Review: Tristan+Isolde

Triston+Isolde, on DVD

I saw the movie when it was in the theatres. There is something that disturbs me about the film (plus some stupid little things). However, I reluctantly liked it, then. Enough to rent the DVD, now. I still like it...

By the way, since this movie has been out for a while, I can spoil away, right?

The movie tale based upon the ancient story of Tristan and Isolde, of which there are several versions. In fact, scholars trace several other stories, myths, and fairy tales back to these stories. I’ve enjoyed reading the differences between these versions and stories, over the years. It’s fun (for me, anyway) to find yourself reading something else (King Arthur, for instance) and see traces of Tristan and Isolde in that, more famous tale.

You’ll recognize the main plot and it’s complications in so many stories that you’re more familiar with; ancient to modern. But, classic plotlines and characters are like comfort foods, you eat them over and over again, because you love them and find them familiar.

So, after the retreat of the Roman Empire, the Irish wage war against the tribes of Briton, leading the Brits to attempt to “unite.” Of course there’s treachery afoot, and the Irish march in to destroy the alliance, lead by Mark, the leader of the strongest of these British tribes. In the years that follow, Tristan, the now adopted son of Mark, becomes a hero and the great champion of his tribe, leading in battle and inspiring the people around him.

As the tribes of Briton become strong, once again, the Irish King devises more treachery to keep them divided. He offers the hand of his beautiful daughter, Isolde, to the winning champion of a great contest that he stages, hoping to stir resentment and fear amongst the Britons. It works of course. Blah, blah, blah, more treachery.

Of course there’s got to be some sort of mix-up, right? Tristan falls for Isolde, not knowing who she is, and vice versa. Then, since he doesn’t know who she is, he doesn’t know who he’s fighting for, and wins the battle on behalf of Mark! Poor Tristan. Poor Isolde. But, more importantly, poor Mark.

Yes, Isolde marries Mark. Tristan and Isolde keep their love a secret, but can they keep their hands and, more importantly, their genitalia to themselves? It wouldn’t be a good movie if they did, right?

More treachery, guilt, shame, treachery, love, angst, etc. ensues. Good fun. If you don’t know how it’s going to end by now, I’m not going to spoil it for you…

Anyhow, I love the basic story. Only, I wish they would have picked a slightly different version to follow. In some versions, Tristan and Isolde are put under a spell or accidentally take a love potion, which renders them helpless against their desires. In this version, they are merely weak and spineless.

In all versions, they eventually come around, and guilt-ridden, attempt to put things right. In the potion version, they “come out” of the spell and are horrified at what they’ve done and immediately try to make amends. In other versions, they sure feel guilty and shameful, after they get caught. I like the potion version better.

Why is it that people enjoy movies where people act immorally so much (Fatal Attraction, for instance)? It’s obviously natural to have desires, but for once, I’d like to see a movie where those desires are resisted. It’s not like these two had some great revelation and decided to change. As sappy as it is, in Regarding Henry, for instance, the guy had a shot at starting over. When he realized how he used to be, he rejected it, made amends, and regained his honor (and his wife, too). This is how the “magic potion” version of Tristan and Isolde is to me.

Tangent: Why do these “betrayal movies” feature betrayed women that are way hotter than the women the men choose to betray with? I’m sorry, but Ann Archer compared to Glenn Close? Annette Benning compared to whoever that was that Henry met at the Ritz? Not even a close call. Who’s going to screw around on the hotter than hot wife, who’s not even a bitch? Unrealistic!

That’s it. “Review” done, with the exception of the one little thing that I said bothered me: The title. The movie is titled “Tristan+Isolde” rather than “Tristan and Isolde” Hmm… Just like “Romeo+Juliet,” the movie massacre of Shakespeare’s tragedy. I hated the modernized “Romeo+Juliet.” Maybe this was a nod to that movie, but I don’t see it. Stylistically, there’s nothing in common. Of course, the tale of Tristan and Isolde is said to be the inspiration for Shakespeare’s story, but let’s have the actual word “and,” or at the very least, an ampersand.

Update: You may have noticed that the title, in the pic DOES have an ampersand. It's strange, but the cover of the DVD has a "+," while the movie posters have an "&."

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