An Analysis on ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1946)

Most of today’s adolescents are well familiarized with the 1991 animated film from Disney which has carried on over to today’s mainstream appeal in the form of Disneyland attractions, Halloween costumes, or even the adoration given to it by its viewers. However, many do not realize that the 1946 film by Jean Cocteau redefined the classical interpretation of a fantasy film and a children’s fairytale by daring to further delve into the psychology of the characters and not settling it’s subject matter to be bland or vague, but rather emotional and personal without having to force itself upon its audience. I need not go into specificities on plot details, but I should state how most everything is kept the same as the original story except for how it handles its concepts. Beauty and the Beast is a film which transitions smoothly in and out from surreal to real landscapes with fluid mobility, making its camera work and it’s juxtaposition exceptionally noteworthy. The black and white photography, something which would most likely bore the viewers of the 1991 classic, is actually something of stunning appeal; taking advantage of soft focuses whenever pondering on the beautiful Josette Day and natural lighting on the Beast, played by Jean Marais.

Another fact worth mentioning is the advanced effects and camera trickery shown on screen from Belle emerging from a wall, to cleverly displayed smoke exerting from bodies, or even the elegantly portrayal of the castle itself: a living scenery that shows everything from bushes to gates, to statues displaying signs of magical life. In terms of story, we are shown something much more serious and something much darker than commonly attributed to the tale. Cocteau manages to bring life and humanity to an otherwise beastly character, while ironically making emotionless hags out of Belle’s sisters. The audience is henceforth convinced to show sympathy to a character we would have otherwise felt no emotional connection to. What strikes most astonishing, however, is the character development of the Beast. He is a character divided in two. His animalistic qualities beg him to free himself of the restrains of human limitations while his logical side urges him to consider Belle and all her beauty, a reasoning which thoroughly convinces him of his own humanity. She is his saving grace and without the beauty of things, we would all be left as animals. Moral of the story? Well anyway, if you haven’t seen this, consider yourself missing out on probably the most mature, rewarding, and overall magical fantasy film the medium has yet to offer.

Thank you for reading,

Omar Antonio Iturriaga