Hey everyone! I come to you today with a discussion/essay I’ve written recently. I adore the new Beauty and the Beast film – and I mean head-over-heels, seen it three times, soundtrack on repeat adore the new film. I wrote this essay, and now I would be honored to share it with you. Maybe I can shed some light on why I love this film so much. Enjoy!
Beauty and the Beast is a beloved classic, a tale as old as time that speaks to generations. From its first known written version in 1740 to the 1991 animated Disney film that made it a classic, Beauty and the Beast has inspired millions to look deeper than what’s on the surface. Now, in 2017, we have been gifted with a new, live-action version of the much beloved classic. Starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as the pinnacle characters of Belle and the Beast, the new film has already become as much of a classic as its predecessor. Because it expands the characters’ backstories, explores the relationship between Belle and the Beast, the overall explanation of the original plot, and adds new music, the new Beauty and the Beast film surpasses the 1991 Disney classic.
The recently released Beauty and the Beast film expands upon details that were sorely missing from the original animation. Where was Belle’s mother? Why did her and her father end up in such a small town? Why was the Beast so cruel and selfish that the enchantress cursed him? The new film answers all of these questions and more. To begin, the film starts off with bringing up the question of Belle’s mother. In the animated film, Belle’s mother is never mentioned and we are told that Belle is weird simply because she reads. In this new adaptation, Belle is so much more than that. Belle asks her father about her mother every day, begging for the smallest pieces of information so she can paint a picture of her mother in her head. We later learn that Belle was born just outside of Paris in a small farm during an outbreak of the plague. Belle’s mother contracted the disease and didn’t survive, and Maurice fled with his infant daughter to a small town far away hoping to keep her safe.
The Beast gained new backstory as well. While we still do not know his true name, we learn of his childhood in the castle. His mother also was taken by the plague, and we get to witness a sweet young child become corrupted by his father. In the animated film, we are only told that he is a monster and we are witness to his cruel behavior. However, the writers have now built background and provided context. While this doesn’t excuse the Beast from his behavior, it adds a little something more.
Furthermore, the staff, Gaston, as well as some of the townspeople have their own backstories and character arcs. The supporting characters are no longer fixtures in a grand scheme, they are humanized and complex additions to the larger arc of the story. For example, we learn that Mrs. Potts had a husband, Cogsworth a wife, and that Gaston was a soldier in the war and is fighting back struggling with PTSD. These additions to the new film fleshed out the bare bones backstory we had been previously given in our most beloved classic.
The live-action version of Beauty and the Beast outshines the animated film in how it explores the relationship between Belle and the Beast while also removing the idea of “Stockholm Syndrome” that turned people away from the original. While we are still given the montage musical number “Something More,” there is something more to the story. In the original film, most of the relationship development takes place during the aforementioned musical number. Beyond that, there is the library scene and the scene where he lets her go after their dance. In the new version of the film, the relationship between Belle and the Beast unfolds like a blooming rose. After Beast saves Belle from the wolves, and she in return tends to his wounds, there are a variety of new scenes in which Belle and the Beast bond. The first scene is as the Beast awakens, and he and Belle bond over their love of reading. He also teases her for loving “Romeo and Juliet,” which she had been reading to him aloud while he was unconscious.
Another scene involves Belle confiding in the Beast about life in the village and how the villagers treated her. Here we see them confide in each other about their insecurities about being different and find solace in the other. One of the most emotionally charged scenes in the film is another moment of bonding between Belle and the Beast. When the Beast brings Belle to the library, he shares with her a gift from the enchantress that enables the user to travel anywhere they desire. He used to use it to peak at the outside world, at what he was missing, but he had long since given up on that pursuit. Now, Belle uses it to travel to the one place she longed to see the most: the Paris of her childhood. Beast helps Belle discover what happened to her mother, and upon making that discovery, helps her through her grief. This is a pinnacle moment in the film, and in their relationship. These additional scenes between Belle and the Beast creates a visibly deeper connection between the two.
The relationship between Belle and the Beast is not the only thing further explored in this new version of the film. Subtle details that were lacking from the original animation found new life in this edition. The most apparent detail is the new additions to the inner workings of the curse. The original curse is that the prince and all those living in the castle have been transformed and will remain in their new forms if the last petal of the enchanted rose falls. In this version, the old curse remains, but it is taken further than ever before. Each time a petal falls, the castle deteriorates even more and our beloved Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and Chip become more like the objects they have transformed into. Adding in these new elements to the curse created a stronger sense of urgency and of hopelessness each time a petal fell.
Other new details include just why the servants stayed so long with a cruel master such as the Beast before the curse ever struck. During the scene when we learn of the Beast’s mother, we also learn that Mrs. Potts and the others feel responsible for the changes that took place to turn him into what he became. For that reason, they chose to stay and try to make things right – leading to their current situation. There are other changes as well, like Belle being the inventor and the actual relationship of the townspeople with the castle and those within it. These new additions to the story created a sense of completeness that was desperately needed.
Lastly, three new songs were introduced in this updated version of the film. The producers brought back Alan Menken, the man behind the original music, to craft new songs while perfecting the others. His new creations include “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” “Days in the Sun,” and “Evermore.” Each song has a specific place and meaning in the overarching narrative of the story. “How Does a Moment Last Forever” is first sung by Belle’s father in memory of his late wife. The song is about keeping a memory alive, and about how love is what enables us to hold onto the things and people we have lost. Belle later reprises this song when visiting her childhood home with the Beast.
The second new addition, “Days in the Sun,” chronicles the beginning of how the Beast became the cruel man we meet in the beginning while also illuminating the longing of the other characters to be human again. This song could be compared to “To Be Human Again,” which had been cut from the original film and then later added to an anniversary edition. However, “Days in the Sun” is more sorrowful and soulful, tugging at your heartstrings whereas “To Be Human Again” is more humorous.
Last but not least, the new song carefully crafted for the beast, “Evermore.” This song adds a whole new level of emotion to the film. In the animated version, the only time the Beast sings is in “Something There.” Also in the animated version, Belle simply disappears after he releases her. However, with the addition of this new ballad, we are a witness to the Beast’s emotional turmoil as Belle leaves him with his blessing. This song details how he will always remember her, how he will honor her memory, and how he will always wait by the open door for her to return. It is heartbreaking, and it illustrates just how deep the Beast’s feelings for Belle truly run. These new songs have brought new light to the old film while also creating something that will be sorely missed the next time the animated version is watched.
The new live-action Beauty and the Beast has decimated its competition. It brought new depth and meaning and feeling to the classic while also creating its own spin on the finer details. Without the new elements to the live-action, the animated film would have remained at the top. However, the revamped classic has far surpassed the original with its deeper exploration of relationships and details and the beautiful new songs. The new film will forever be a tale as old as time.
So, what do you think? Do you think the new film surpasses the old one? What were your favorite parts and why? What did you dislike?