Hey guys! So I was at the library the other day and I saw this movie on the shelf called Beauty and the Beast, but it was a version I’d never seen before. When I looked at it closer, I realized it was a French movie and I thought to myself, “Hmm. The fairy tale is originally French. I wonder how it compares with our English/Disney versions.”
Look, I’m one of those literature/language/English nerds who loves seeing how stories evolve with each retelling. Because every storyteller/generation is going to put their own spin on things. And I absolutely adore seeing what those changes are. This is just one of the first times I’m able to compare a comparable story not across the ages, but across the sea.
So this is my Compare This! Cultural edition. I’m going to do this a little differently than usual because I’m just really going to assume that you’re familiar with either the 1991 and/or 2017 Disney versions of the same name. So let’s go!
Beauty and the Beast vs. La Belle et La Bête
- At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, both heroines are named Belle. (Hey, it’s not always that way!) And both men are, well, beasts.
- Both tales involve fantastical creatures/a healthy dose of magic beyond turning a man into a beast.
- Both follow the general well-known story arc: Girl attempts to save her father, sacrifices herself to the Beast, girl and beast fall in love.
- Belle’s personality is generally the same. She’s well educated, independent, and stubborn. Oh, and when her merchant father goes out of town, the only thing she requests is a rose.
- Both stories created characters to fit their needs. In Beauty, Gaston and LeFou are Disney creations to give Belle another suitor/villain. In La Belle, the villain is named Perducas. He’s a thief and has unquenchable greed, along with a suspicious, superstitious streak.
- La Belle is actually more in line with the original tale, even though there are still many many differences. In La Belle, Belle is the youngest of six (two sisters, three brothers). Her mother died while giving birth to her and, in some ways, her family holds that against her. Also in line with the original tale, Belle’s father was a wealthy merchant who lost all of his money suddenly when his ships sank.
- The Beasts are actually quite different in personalities. In Beauty, the Beast becomes a beast because he’s vain and selfish. In La Belle, it’s because he’s greedy and destroys an old magic for his own gain. So whereas the Beast in Beauty comes to love Belle when he realizes he cares for someone more than himself, in La Belle, it happens when he covets Belle for himself, though he’s learned a bit from his last mistake.
- The villain’s sidekick is a very different role in both. We’re pretty familiar with Gaston and LeFou here, but Perducas’s sidekick is a fortuneteller named Astrid, who reads Tarot cards for him. (Perducas trusts nothing if the cards don’t tell him it first.) In a way, Astrid loves Perducas, even if he can’t truly love her back. So it’s a different dynamic than Gaston and LeFou.
- La Belle is definitely not a musical. Unfortunately.
- La Belle, for being French, was incredibly unromantic. I mean, there was a dance scene but it was not at all like the sweeping dress, “tale as old as time” dance we’re used to. It just happened out of the blue. And their entire love story seemed to come out of nowhere.
I appreciated being able to see another version. And in the beginning, I was totally into it. I loved giving Belle siblings. I loved that that made her more fierce because sacrificing herself to the Beast took on more meaning when it meant protecting her siblings as well. It has some beautiful shots of the landscape, intricate designs, and nuanced characterization to make the siblings all feel different.
But once Belle got to the castle, it got weird. The Beast was incredibly angry all the time and refused to let Belle look at him. He would hover behind her shoulder and once he watched her sleep, which ranked really high on my Creepy! meter. With his claws (and a scene where he kills and eats a pig raw), he’s actually incredibly dangerous as well. He also came off to me as almost abusive at times in the ways he would treat Belle. Not that he ever hit her or anything, but more like emotional abuse. I’m not really sure what it was. It just unsettled me watching it.
Which made the “I love you’s” really awkward because I didn’t see that coming at all from their previous interactions.
I did like the twist about how the Beast became a Beast, with how his greed blew up in his face. And the ending had some really awesome action sequences. But the context surrounding them was hard to understand if I was missing things through dubbing (I watched it in English) or if it was a cultural thing.
So while it was fun once, I think I’m good sticking to Disney.