Review: Belle


The story of “Beauty and the Beast” has charmed readers and viewers for centuries. Adaptations have appeared on stage, on TV, and in the movies. Here we have a new one.

“Belle” takes place in the starkly beautiful environment of Iceland. It begins with a recitation of the story of a prince, unfaithful to his wife, who is cursed by her, along with his lover, to become a flesh eating monster, living alone in the wilderness, and forever guarding the magic rose that was the symbol of their love. The magic is that the rose has the power to arrest death.

Belle (Andrea Snaedal – “Silicon Beach”) lives a lonely farm life with her Pappa (Gudmundur Thorvaldsson – “Fortitude”), who has grown frail and nearing death. To save him, she decides to seek out the beast and his magic rose. After traveling, she comes upon a cave on the seacost, its mouth guarded by a blind girl, rooted to the spot, and hold a torch. Could this be the cursed lover of the unfaithful prince? Entering the cave, she finds the rose, and the prince (Ingi Hrafn Hilmarsson), who is bearded but handsome. He offers her the rose for her Pappa.

Belle takes the rose to a sorceress (Hana Vagnerova), who may be the prince’s betrayed wife. She converts a petal into a potion, which restores her father. However, the renewed health only lasts hours. Bell returns to the cannibalistic beast, realizing she must stay with him in his cave if she wishes her father to live. Here is the element of sacrifice. Belle can view her father through a magic mirror but cannot return to him.

What I’ve described above is much like the original fairytale, except for the stark surroundings and the gastronomic needs of the beast. He can eat nothing but human flesh. Thus, the writer/director Max Gold (“Silicon Beach”) has added an element of horror to the original story of enchantment. There are some other startling differences, but no spoilers here.

The photography is exquisite, with the acting dreamlike as befits the surroundings and the tale. The violence, while obvious, is not as gratuitous as most horror flicks. Special effects (the mirror) and makeup (the beast just gets more unkempt and darker when peckish) are kept to a respectable minimum.

This is a minor, but fascinating take on a familiar story. If you are looking for an un-Disneyfied version of Beauty and the Beast, minus the 17th century French royal trappings, this film is for you.

Brief full frontal nudity, some gore. In English, with brief parts in Icelandic (with subs).

Director/writer: Max Gold
Producers: Lauren Bates, Shane Donahue, Zoey Gold, Kellen Witschen, Ingi Hrafn Hilmarsson
Cinematographer: Nico Navia
Editor: Patrick Lawrence
Music: Matt Orenstein

Belle: Andrea Snaedal
Prince/Beast: Ingi Hrafn Hilmarsson
Pappa: Gudmundur Thorvaldsson
Sorceress: Hana Vagnerova

Runtime: One hour, 32 minutes
Availability: Limited theatrical release on July 14, 2023

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