Tuesday, 27 October 2015

SPACE ODDITIES: La Belle et La Bête (1946)

Fig.1. La Belle et La Bete
Jean Cocteau's, fantastical 1946 tale 'La Belle et La Bete', the story that inspired Walt Disney's 1991 smash hit 'Beauty and the Beast', is an outstanding showcase of movie magic that captivates audiences with its imaginative story. A story that seems to have an underlining tone of sexual allure and adds within it the taboo regime of beastiality.

Fig.2. Film Still
'Consider the extraordinary shot where Belle waits at the dining table in the castle for the beasts first entrance. He appears Behind her and approaches silently. She senses his presence, and begins to react in a way that some viewers have described as fright, although it is clearly orgasmic. Before she has even seen him, she is aroused to her very depths, and a few seconds later, as she tells him she cannot marry--a Beast!--she toys with a knife that is more than a knife' (Ebert, 1999)

This scene is packed with sexual connotations, the way in which the beast is very calm, yet provocative to the viewer. The Beast is entranced by Belle, after being hidden away within his castle, a luxurious prison that holds him, he cannot contain himself around her. 
Although the beast comes across aesthetically as this towering, hairy brute, his kindness and good heart shines through, pleading to Belle that what she wants she can have. This is where the female role seems to change slightly, instead of being a hostage or the dominated character, Belle takes the reins. A dominatrix, she calls the shots with the Beast, he worships the female figure, the beauty that is before him. 
Fig.3. Film Still

'There is an obvious undercurrent of eroticism here, too. This is acknowledged finally when Beauty (Josette Day) tells the Beast (Jean Marais) "I like being afraid... with you." As played by Marais, the Beast comes across as a dapper, renaissance version of a werewolf in a Universal horror film. One moment, he'll be on his haunches drinking water from Beauty''s hands, but the next he'll be growling out some surprising chivalrous dialogue.' (Macnab, 2014)

His primal instincts are shown within scenes in which he drinks from Belle's hands, she treats him like her pet, but only when he allows it. His broad shoulders portray him as a large menacing character, but his feline-esque characteristics say otherwise. The story is very back and forth with the characters, to begin with the Beast is a mysterious, foreboding figure and Belle the timid, beautiful woman, but,  as the story progresses they weave in and out of these roles and change the way in which we see them.

The entirety of the story is surrounded by a luxurious set. A set that is encrusted with diamonds and lavish fabrics that are draped upon the characters, all playing a part within this wonderful tale.

'The Beast's ornate, decaying castle- ringed with throws and filled with grasping hands- is a place of terror, wonder and mourning, the perfect reflection of its tragic, noble occupant.' (Huddlestone, 2013)

This sense of mourning and tragedy that is reflected within the Beast's castle seems to act like a metaphor to the way in which the beast feels about himself. He sees himself only as this aesthetically un-pleasing and horrifying creature. He cannot see beneath his rough exterior, that is until Belle enters his life. She brings out the best in him.


Ebert, R (1999) 'La Belle et La Bete' At:http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-beauty-and-the-beast-1946 Accessed on: 27/10/2015

Huddlestone, T (2013) 'La Belle et La Bete' At: http://www.timeout.com/london/film/la-belle-et-la-bete-1 Accessed on: 27/10/2015

Macnab, G (2014) 'La Belle Et La Bete: Film review - Cocteau's Forties fantasy is still a thing of real beauty' At: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/la-belle-et-la-bete-film-review-cocteaus-forties-fantasy-is-still-a-thing-of-real-beauty-9035506.html Accessed on: 27/10/2015


Figure 1. 'La Belle et La Bete' [Film Poster] At:http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~lenin/jmfbabb.jpg

Figure 2. [Film Still] At: http://fr.web.img6.acsta.net/videothumbnails/195/378/19537834_2013091115403491.jpg

Figure 3. [Film Still] At: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2013/12/27/1388157715831/Cocteaus-La-belle-et-la-b-016.jpg


  1. 'The story is very back and forth with the characters, to begin with the Beast is a mysterious, foreboding figure and Belle the timid, beautiful woman, but, as the story progresses they weave in and out of this roles and change the way in which we see them.' Very nicely expressed, Tom.

    nitpick time - watch your use of apostrophes: Belles hands should be *Belle's hands' and 'the Beasts castle' should read 'Beast's castle' - when you're apportioning something as belonging to something, you need the apostrophe to make this clear, as in 'Monday's child' or 'the woman's glove' or 'the man's walking stick'.

  2. oh and also...?

    *within the Beasts castle seem stop act like a metaphor* ?

    1. Ah yes, thank you, Phil. I definitely need to proof read more than once before posting :)

  3. Yes, nice thoughtful review Tom :)
    I was wondering about the 'stop act' bit too...

    1. Sadly, my Mac feels the need to autocorrect certain words, the sentence is supposed to be 'seems to act'. My mac says otherwise. Thank you, Jackie :)