The Rose and the Beast

La rose, dans La Belle et la Bête de jean Cocteau, sorti en salles en 1946.

La rose, dans La Belle et la Bête de jean Cocteau, sorti en salles en 1946.

A rose sealed the destiny of Beauty and the Beast. An innocent rose requested by a pure-hearted daughter from her father that would lead to their first encounter and the scary adventures that would bring about their undying love.

The Beast’s rose is his greatest treasure. To him it is more precious than gold; his castle with its living statues; and his world of spells and blood. The Beast struggles to tame his animal impulses and is suffering in his kingdom: the rose becomes his light, his purest self and a symbol of hope. So when Belle’s lost father plucks a rose to take home to his daughter, the Beast appears and sentences him to death. But fate intervenes when Belle offers to take his place and the magic spell is woven for the death penalty to become a sentence of love.

Beauty and the Beast is a fable by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont published in 1756. Jean Cocteau directed a visually poetic film version of it in 1945. Poetry, according to him, « reveals the invisible ». Film making is a medium that allows an artist to produce « magical realism ». « I wanted people to find my images realistic. If I got up people’s noses on set with all my camera trickery pokery […] it’s because I want the kind of unreal realism that enables everyone to dream the same dream together. This is not the kind of dream you have when you’re asleep. It’s the dream of unreal realism, truer than true… » (Jean Cocteau)

The poet’s vision; pictorial references to great masters (Vermeer and the Flemish school, Velasquez, Gustave Dore); the artistry of his famous colleagues (including cinematographer Henri Alekan,, director Rene Clement, production designer Christian Berard, Maison Paquin and a young Pierre Cardin, musician Georges Auric, to name but a few), and the actors in the film all helped to make Beauty and the Beast a dream of a film, an unrivalled perfection of the power of enchantment of images.