Belle (Josette Day) is the youngest daughter of a once wealthy merchant who lost his fortune when the ships carrying his cargo drowned. While her siblings keep spending money that they do not have, Belle has taken on the role of family servant. Avenant (Jean Marais) is a friend of Belle’s brother, who would like nothing more than to marry Belle. But she is uninterested in him.
While crossing through a dark forest at night, Belle’s father is welcomed into a castle the seems empty. On his way out, he steals a rose, an act which angers the beast (also Jean Marais) that owns the castle. Belle’s father has two options: sacrifice his life or send one of his daughters in his stead. Taking her father’s place, Belle rides to the Beast’s castle, not knowing what or who is waiting for her.
Unlike the Disney movie, which is a bit simple (I love that movie, but it’s oversimplified in terms of character), this movie is full of psychological symbolism and not for young children. One of the most fascinating elements of this movie is not the movie, but what was going on in the world at the time. This movie was released just after World War II, when Europe was relying on the Marshall Plan to help rebuild from the destruction that the war created.
The 1959 animated Sleeping Beauty movie, the source material from which the screen play is taken from is twisted in a delightful and intricate manner.
Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a fairy, who develops a friendship and then a teenage romance with a human called Stefan (Sharlto Copley). But Stefan is ambitious. The dying king announces that the man who kills Maleficent will crowned king upon his death. Using their relationship to his advantage, Stefan cuts off Maleficent’s wings to gain the throne.
Years later, Stefan is now king and parent to a brand new baby girl. At her christening, she is being blessed by the three fairies Flittle (Lesley Manvile), Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton) and Thistlewit (Juno Temple). Seeking revenge, Maleficent curses the new princess. After the curse, the princess (played as a teenager by Elle Fanning) is taken away from the castle, Maleficent watches over the child with a strange maternal instinct with the help of her servant Diaval (Sam Riley).
I loved this movie. While I find the Disney princess movies from that era of Sleeping Beauty to be one note, black and white and not how I want to spend my movie watching time, this movie takes these characters from one dimension to three dimensions. Maleficent is not just a villain just to be a villain, she is hurting from Stefan’s betrayal and uses that hurt to justify her actions. I’m not normally a fan of Angelina Jolie, but she is magnificent and perfectly cast in this role. The special effects were just enough to enhance the story, not used to cover up a hole in the screenplay.
*-This post contains spoilers about Skin Deep and Once Upon A Time. If you are catching up on season 1, read at your own risk.
Half way through the first season of Once Upon A Time, the character of Rumplestilskin (Robert Carlyle) was a villain with a capital V. He was the trickster, the dark one, making deals with people who were desperate enough to seek him out.
Then Skin Deep aired. Skin Deep put this villain with a capital V in a new light, a man who was tortured by his past and hid that tortured past under a mask that no one could crack. That was until Sir Maurice of Avonlea, desperate to end the Ogre wars, called upon the dark one to end the war. As usual, there was deal to be made. Rumplestilskin does not make deals without getting something in return. That deal was Sir Maurice’s daughter, Belle. She would leave her father’s kingdom forever and become a servant in Rumplestilskin’s castle.
This episode was written by Jane Espenson, and introduced Belle (Lost and Roswell’s Emilie de Raven) to the Once Upon A Time universe.
This episode, is best episode that this show has ever produced and I would like to tell you why.
Carlyle and de Raven have incredible chemistry. They just work on screen.
The psychology of Beauty And The Beast translates perfectly to the twist and turns that the Once Upon A Time gives to their fractured fairy tales. In the original tale, Beauty is the youngest daughter of a now impoverished merchant who was once very wealthy. Her older sisters are very spoiled and selfish, Beauty is relegated to the role of servant. The Beast lives in an isolated castle, surrounded by material wealth. In the very well known 1991 Disney movie, Belle is an outsider in her small town, longing for adventure. Beast was once a human prince, cursed by a sorceress for his selfish ways. The psychology of both characters: the Beast, broken and bruised by life and Belle, selfless and loyal, while looking for adventure plays perfectly into the Once Upon A Time idea of twisting the basic fairy tale into something far more interesting.
The title is absolutely perfect.
The line “No one decides my fate, but me” ties in with the idea of female empowerment, a theme running throughout the show.
The final scene between Belle and Rumplestilskin is heartbreaking. It echoes in the hearts of everyone who has ever given up an opportunity or a relationship out of fear and low self esteem.
This episode launched the on screen roller coaster of a relationship that is Rumbelle, it has kept fans hooked since February of 2012 and wanting more. As of the end of the third season, they have married and Mr. Gold has not told the new Mrs. Gold about a secret that will cause ripples in season 4.
And that is why Skin Deep is one of the single greatest hours of television.