Beauty and the Beast (Mini-series, 2014)

Prince Leon is known for his cruelty and capricious behavior, and wears a mask to hide an ugly scar. But he is also tormented by a secret from his past. Initially charmed by Bella’s beauty and unflinching courage, he seeks to make her another of his conquests, even making a bet with his cousin he can seduce her within weeks. But Bella is not so easily swayed. Beautifully filmed in northern Italy, this lush and passionate take on a classic tale relies not on magic, but something more powerful. Can the ocean be tamed? Can a beast be worthy of love?

– Renee, IMDB

Beauty and the Beast is a 2014 miniseries brought to us by Rai Fiction, Lux Vide, and Telecinco Cinema. Lux Vide, a television company founded by Ettore Bernabei, was created in 1992 and specialises in created international TV series and films. Burnabei’s children, Matilde and Luca, served as the producers for the miniseries. The series stars Blanca Suárez and Alessandro Preziosi as the titular Beauty and the Beast.

MANY thoughts from me (Potential spoilers below)…
Woo boy, where to begin with this one. Fair warning, this post is gonna differ from my usual format because I really didn’t care for this film. Not in a “This one just isn’t funny-bad” way, but in a “This one is so bad I feel like I have to warn others about it” kinda way.

I stumbled across this film on one of my routine Amazon searches for new Princess movies. The cover to this take on Beauty and the Beast stood out to me due to the Phantom-esque mask the Prince is wearing on the DVD. In addition to collecting Princess movies I also collect Phantom of the Opera movies, so I was really intrigued about this one. Maybe it’d be a fun Beauty and the Beast/Phantom of the Opera mash-up?

I bought the film, it arrived, and then it sat on my shelf for a good long while until one fateful night I decided it was time to give it a go… and oh man, what a tough watch this was.

The movie takes the approach that the human Prince, who was disfigured in a fire before the events of the story began (Hence the mask), is so embittered by the death of his first wife that he becomes a metaphorical beast. Always in a foul mood, freely heaping verbal, emotional, and physical abuse onto his staff… He is so repugnant to our heroine, Bella, that the entire two-part miniseries plays out like a horror film.

One of the Prince’s early scenes has him sleeping with the wife of a count, and when the count catches the two canoodling the Prince goads the count into a duel with pistols. Not wanting to kill the Prince, the count deliberately misses his shot… and the Prince responds by shooting the him in the knee caps without even a shred of pity.

The Prince’s treatment of Bella, who comes to work for him as part of a debt her family owes, is equally horrendous. Early on the Prince ends up making a bet with his female cousin (who is openly pining for him) that if he can’t get Bella to willingly sleep with him he’ll marry said cousin. In order to win the bet the Prince starts trying to schmooze Bella, and when she turns down his initial flirtations he steps things up by stealing and reading her mail to try and use the information within to engineer “Romantic” situations for the two to get stuck in. Bella writes about how homesick she is for her ocean-adjacent house, so the Prince decides to take a vacation to an ocean-side villa where he specifically requests Bella join him as a servant.

At one point the Prince secretly hires Bella’s father for a job. Bella’s father, who is desperate to free his daughter from the Prince’s household, is so grateful to his mysterious benefactor that he sends him a treasured family keepsake, his father’s old compass, as a sign of thanks. Bella’s father writes about the gift he gave to his mysterious benefactor to Bella, which she reads. Meanwhile the Prince tells his manservant that Bella should unpack his belongings (Specifically telling the manservant not to tell Bella that the Prince requested she be the one to unpack his stuff), and Bella finds the old compass. Bella of course thinks the Prince has done this out of some kindness to her, and goes to the Prince to thank him. Cut to me on the couch in agony at how uncomfortably manipulative this all is.

The Prince shoves Bella, manhandles her… at one point he threatens to whip Bella after she defends a starving child who got caught stealing from the castle kitchen. He tells Bella that her fate will be decided by a coin flip, heads she’s whipped, tails she’s safe. Only visible to the Prince, the coin lands heads up, but he tells Bella that it’s tails and that she’ll be spared. Immediately after the Prince tells his cousin that he lied because the bet is still on and he knows whipping a woman isn’t the best way to endear herself to you. I imagine the movie is probably hoping we’ll assume that he’s just covering up his true feelings for Bella and that he instead spared Bella because he loves her… but to be quite frank, we have no reason not to take the Prince’s words at face value.

We are never given any clear indication that the Prince is actually in love with Bella, and that the rare nice things he does for her are anything but an attempt to win the bet. There nothing in how the Prince is written or acted that gives us any other way to interpret his actions. He screams at her, shoves her, objectifies her… when she finds out about the bet and tries to run away, he chases her down and angrily imprisons her. There is no “if you love her, set her free” moment here like in Disney’s take on the Beauty and the Beast story, nor is there any character development on the part of the Prince.

Really, the main problem of this film is that at the end, Bella and the Prince end up together. I was really, really hoping for a subversion of expectations where Bella recognizes how awful the Prince is and leaves him. Unfortunately the movie makes it pretty clear that we’re supposed to root for the two to get together. All the servants in the castle push Bella towards the Prince. They tell Bella straight to her face how much nicer the Prince is when she’s around, how he’s really not that bad deep down and oh Bella you should stay in the castle for forever… Eeep. It feels like everyone is pushing Bella into a toxic relationship because they’ll benefit from it.

This is definitely not a feel-good movie to show at a movie night. This is one of the rare movies that I’m cataloging on this blog that is just flat out bad instead of “so-bad-it’s-entertaining”.

In conclusion, this one is safe to avoid. If you do show it to friends it might be good to give them a heads-up on the content of this one, I can see it being a bit triggering for some folks.

References

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