"Beauty and the Beast," the 1946 film directed by Jean Cocteau
Belle views the transformed Beast with a suspicion, as if she prefers the Beast's monster-form to his human incarnation. Cocteau plays up the sense of disappointment in this scene, making the audience wait a moment before Belle accepts the Prince Charming that the Beast has become.
From the film's opening moments, Cocteau strives to imbue the film with a sense of childlike fantasy. It is shot in black and white, and Cocteau plays careful attention to the use of light and shadow. As one might expect, the Beast's dreamy castle is filled with shadows, and when Cocteau first introduces the audience to this enchanted locale, the candelabras with their human arms that seem to be alive and the statues with eyes that follow those who past are shaded in darkness, giving them a mysterious, fairy tale feel.
Indeed, Cocteau makes a clear distinction between the realistic imagery of the countryside in which Belle and her family live, and the fantastic, magical kingdom that the Beast rules. In scenes that take place at the merchant's manor, the camera shows clear, simple images that convey a sense of boredom and drudgery, an obvious parallel to Belle's life in this setting. This is contrasted with the camera work in the scenes at the Beast's castle, where the shots all seem to be taken from a slight angle. In fact, during key moments in the film, Cocteau often blocks the view of objects in the Beast's castle, adding to the air of mystery and wonder that fills his world.
The film's dreamlike quality, which firmly anchors it in the wonderful realm of fantasy, is probably best exemplified in the scene where Belle first enters the Beast's castle. Cocteau chooses to film this sequence in slow motion, as Belle wanders down the magical hallways with wonder and amazement. She often seems to drift down the corridors in a dreamlike trance, and the audience is caught up in this feeling of enchantment with Belle.
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