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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The good, the bad and Tristan and Isolde

Published: January 27, 2006
Section: Arts, Etc.

As someone who took Arthurian Literature last semester, I recognized the names Tristan and Isolde when I first heard about this movie. Since I didnt actually read about them in class, I only knew what the commercial could have taught me. Its about doomed love la Romeo and Juliet.

So whats the draw, then?

Well, everyone loves a train wreck. Or, at least, they cant help but watch it. Plus the basic story of Tristan and Isolde is not nearly as childish as that of Juliet and her Romeo, as far as a love story goes. Two thirteen year olds falling love, getting married, and dying within days of each other? Not exactly what Id call the greatest love the world has ever known. As so, as a love story, Tristan and Isolde works infinitely better. The tale comes from an ancient legend and has the romance, political upheaval and, yes, all of the angst to make it a story that would last for centuries, as it has.

That was what lured me into the theater, and thus, in a weird way Brandeis was part of the bait. It inspired me to see a movie that was not actually required for class;

my education dollars at work. But did they pay off? What did I think once I was in the theater? Tristan and Isolde is a good movie, but not a great movie. Some of the scenes in this movie, especially between the title characters, are very striking. James Franco especially does an admirable job as Tristan, but the movie itself does not live up to its potential. It has that good classic story of forbidden love, a romantic triangle, plus it deals with ideas about family and the fate of an entire nation. The plot is on a big scale and the movie just does not feel, well, “epic” enough. It seems at times as if the film cannot decide whether it wants Tristan and Isoldes love affair to be the main story or whether it wants to focus on the fate of Britain. The fact that Tristan and Isoldes relationship undermines the authority of the man that would unite Britain should make it easier to join these two main ideas of the movie;

however, the film just does not achieve that perfect balance.

Tristan and Isolde begins well and, in setting up the action and the events to come, it looks promising. Even once Tristan and Isolde meet and as they fall in love, albeit in a sort of montage way to speed up the storywhich I can forgive since this a movie and there have to be limitations. As the film progresses, however, what should be the peak of the film, when everything starts to fall apart, there is something missing and the film suffers because of it. The end is what people remember and, for me, the resolution of this film just kind of mutters and then fades to black instead of going out with a bang.

That is not to say that Tristan and Isolde does not have its moments. The quiet moments alone with Tristan and Isolde and the way they interact is at times so believable and touching, and yet other moments in the film are less so and detract from the romance that is supposed to sweep the viewers off their feet.

On a purely aesthetic note, I always enjoy nicely framed shots in movies that stand out rather than blending in, and this movie has more than a few gorgeous shots of Ireland and the Czech Republic, but even in this aspect the movie does not excel. It is the type of movie that you would watch on t.v. instead of seeing in the theater.

Unless youre into the legend of Tristan and are really excited about finding all of the inaccuracies in the movie, you can probably wait for this flick to come out on video and DVD.

As far as a good love story goes, Im looking to Brokeback Mountain to fill the void and be totally satisfying.