Monday, December 31, 2007

Movie Review: Tristan & Isolde

Tristan & Isolde is a thrilling and romantic film about an old myth.

I read on its IMDB entry about how the story bears resemblance to Romeo and Juliet, but it's much closer to the love triangle of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guenevere. Lo, and behold, the Wikipedia entry on the original story backs me up.

Essentially: Tristan (James Franco) is from Cornwall and loyal to King Marke (Rufus Sewell), one of many kings of a divided post-Roman Britain. Ireland is harrying Britain which can't fight back because its kings can't unite against their common foe.

Tristan kills Ireland's champion warrior but is in turn poisoned by the warrior's blade, and falls into a death-like state. He is sent out on a funeral boat and ends up falling into the hands of the proto-feminist Isolde (Sophia Myles), who happens to be the daughter of the Irish king and happens to be the unwilling betrothed of the now-dead champion.

Before you can say "uh huh, right", Isolde nurses Tristan back to life and sends him back to Britain, but not before they have fallen madly in love. Through various new plots, Isolde ends up married to Marke in an attempt to unite both Britain and Ireland, or the kingdoms of Britain, or something of that sort, and there follows a love triangle which puts the fate of both nations at risk.

Unlike most movies of this sort, there's not a lot of yelling and cutout characters. It's well-crafted and acted, and very carefully not overdone, except for a bit of superfluous and repetitious poetry. It has action for the lovers of sword fights, and passion and romance for the lovers of hopeless tragedy. All in all, it's a lovely film, without any long stretches of downtime, and without too many rushed scenes (except for the beginning, perhaps).

IMDB also claims that the movie is based on Wagner's famous opera, Tristan und Isolde, which is quite changed from the original legend, but the movie is sufficiently changed from the opera that only the basic characters and setting remain.

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