Rant: Tristan & Isolde review – contains spoilers.
Posted by Miss Knotty on January 15, 2006
This is your warning – this review contains spoilers. If you actually want to see this movie. Stop reading. No, really. This review is gonna tell you what happens. I will tell you here that the film wasn’t too great in terms of story, and downright reeked in terms of any kind of moral. It did establish a sort of moral baseline – that the titled characters seriously lack them.
That’s your caveat. Now, on to the film review (read: pan)
Okay, so I went out on Opening Night, (January 13, 2006) to go see this one. Beautiful clothes. Despite the obvious bra and panty lines in certain scenes while the film was set in the MIDDLE AGES – the outer trappings are beautiful and they’re on some absolutely beautiful people. People like Rufus Sewell – hubbetty hubba hubba. The young man and woman who play Tristan and Isolde are both beautiful people too. Like…. really really beautiful people. But now on to the cinematography – HORRIBLE. Like many Hollywood productions, they have decided that the average film watcher is a moron, and that ONLY the person speaking can be in sharp focus, and that everyone else, including the person on the other side of the dialogue is in soft, hazy focus. And the focus changes with every dialogue exchange. It’s like watching a tennis game. The film is a 2-hour myopia screening – it’s focused close, it’s focused far, it’s focused close again. Argh. Someone, tell the DP that we could be doing less jumping about and it would be okay. The fighting scenes can be jumpy, that’s okay. It’s expected, really, to heighten the senses of the viewer, but really, that same jumpiness in a love scene is just jarring. Oh, and by the way, there was very little actual love in the film, and the love you found was not in the expected places.
Please bear in mind that this is the HOLLYWOOD VERSION of this legend, NOT the actual legend. So anyway,
1. Okay, Isolde, in this version, is a ho. I’m just saying. She’s the king’s daughter, and he betrothes her to a lout. Her first betrothed is a creep, through and through. The audience was not unhappy to see him get it. He deserved it, really. He lived by the sword, and he died by it. Not that surprising really. That said, Isolde believed herself to be betrothed to him, lout or not, by her father’s command. It was her duty, her responsibility to do honor to her father by obeying him, and marrying the lout. There are softened edges to her story, relating to her mother’s death and her father’s hardness, and her knowledge that her parents’ marriage was loveless and that’s what ‘killed’ her mother (a broken heart). But mitigating circumstances or not, she had a duty to her father, to honor him, and she did him no honor.
It is with this knowledge of her betrothal that she SLEEPS WITH TRISTAN ANYWAY. Adultery one. Okay, we know he’s a lout, and we (the audience), and even (to a degree), Tristan know(s) he’s dead. But (please suspend disbelief here and pretend that these people actually all existed as in the film), that doesn’t negate her knowledge that she’s engaged to a man that she is to marry at her father’s command, upon the lout’s return to Ireland from battle. It would do great dishonor to her father, her betrothed, and herself to be unchaste and to be found unchaste on her wedding night. Not to mention that her betrothed is a lout, and would likely publicly dishonor her for such an affront. Just sayin’.
Okay, so we’ve established that Isolde has a very relative sense of right and wrong, and a ‘rules don’t actually apply to me, they’re just there on paper’ mentality.
So okay, Tristan fights as a champion in a tourney to win her hand, wins and wins her hand in marriage to his king. Nay, his ADOPTED FATHER. (King Marke saves Tristan’s life at the very beginning of his story (when Tristan is orphaned), and so she is won. For Marke. She deceived Tristan previously, by giving a wrong name and not telling him that she’s the king’s daughter. So we’ve already laid the groundwork for a not-healthy relationship here. Tristan is fiercely devoted to Marke, b/c of the whole life-saving thing, and he vows to keep hands off, since she’s his father’s bride. Despite his great love for her. Or at least his great love of schtuping her. Just sayin’.
Isolde decides to ‘make the best of a bad situation’ and tries to be happy with Marke. She quits pretty quick, b/c she’s SOOO in love with Tristan, despite his aloofness to her, on account of the fact that she’s HIS FATHER’S WIFE. So Tristan and Isolde start schtuping again. Adultery, count two on Isolde’s part. Count one on Tristan’s part, b/c she had previously deceived him by telling him she was a maid in the court and said nothing of her betrothal — oh, wait. No. Her nanny or maid or whatever let it slip early on that she was spoken for. So culpability is shared on all fronts for both sets of indescretions.
So anyway, they become less and less discreet and eventually it tears the court up and the efforts to join England against Ireland become endangered by the Irish king and certain English lords’ collusion, and unhappy times for all.
Basically this film was framed out to be a tragic love story where love conquered all blah blah blah. But I didn’t see love between the principal characters where I expected it.
King Marke loved Tristan as a son, even choosing him over his own blood kin, his nephew Malow (subplot there). I believe that he truly did love and nurture Tristan into manhood and that Tristan wouldn’t have been so devoted to him if he had not been treated well.
King Marke loved Isolde, or at least seemed to. (Now this is all in the film, so please continue suspending disbelief). He was trying to care for her and love her and see to her needs, knowing that she was a stranger in a strange land, and was trying to make her feel more at home with him. But apparently his best wasn’t good enough for her.
I really truly believe that Tristan and Isolde did not love each other. I think they lusted each other. A lot. Now, the film glossed over some poetry reading in soft focus and I think that was to imply that a love relationship had developed over time between the two while Tristan was convalescing, but even so…. I don’t think true love starts with deception, and Isolde was lying to him from the start – first she basically holds him hostage in the little croft, by not telling him where he is or how to get home (not that he would have had the strength to go at that moment anyway, but still), then telling him the wrong name. In the meantime, she’s also dishonoring her father and her betrothed by even running around doing all this – certainly not princess-ly behavior. This is a bit of a theme for Isolde throughout the whole movie. She deceives and deceives and deceives. I started really hating her character for that. If there are any men out there reading this, please know that not all women deceive like that. Hollywood loves to put that out as ‘what women do’, and that we all lie and sleep our way to the top, and screw stuff up all over the place, and lead men to despair, but not all women lie. It might come as a bit of a shock, but a great many women are striving to live Godly lives, and endeavor not to lie or deceive at all, most especially in romantic/love relationships. Hard to imagine, I know.
Now I’m all for a woman being able to do things, but if you want to suspend disbelief, you really have to SUSPEND disbelief, and princesses didn’t dabble in herbs and healing potions. They just didn’t. They ate bonbons and ‘had people to do that for them’, whatever that was.
So anyway, yeah. T&I was really a disappointment. It was a lust-fest. My friend that I went with is claiming that I’m too cynical and that true love conquered all. But it seems to me here that ‘true love’ didn’t conquer anything. Marke (seemed to have) loved more truly than either Tristan or Isolde, and he got the short end from both people. ‘There were mitigating circumstances, though’, I hear you cry. ‘Tristan knew her before Marke, and anyway, she nursed him back to health and she loved Tristan and….’ yeah, not so much. She deceived Tristan. She did nurse him back to health (in the film), bully for her. One good deed does not cover over the others. It’s said in the bible that love covers a multitude of sins. And if there had been love, I would gladly have allowed it to cover said sins. But there wasn’t. There was lust, which is a sin, period. Sins seem to multiply on top of each other, I find. They heap up like dirty laundry.
I hope people don’t think it’s cynicism or bitterness over disappointed affection that has me ranting about this. It’s neither of those. It’s SIN. Not cynicism. I mean, this movie was pretty blatant propaganda for illicit relations and a seeming justification for bad behavior, which justified itself by saying that the people that they were running around cheating on were ‘bad’ people, trying to keep the star-crossed-lovers-apart-boo-hoo, and how dare they, and we sure hope that the cheating lovebirds conquer all.
I mean, what about duty? What about responsibilities and vows? Don’t those count for anything?
Thus, my rant is ended. Thank you for reading. If you read.