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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Tristan & Isolde

Yesterday afternoon, I spent a couple of hours on the 2006 movie, Tristan & Isolde. I realized as I watched that I'd forgotten a lot of the details from the story that I read in high school and I couldn't tell when the movie strayed from that version. I'm guessing my faulty memory is a good thing, although I'm really tempted to go digging in my file cabinets and see if I kept my class notes from that HS class. I did several big purges, but I loved this particular class so much, I'm hoping I kept them. But I digress--as usual.

The movie opens with Tristan as a child. His father is trying to unite the tribes of Briton to stand against a ruthless Irish king. The Romans have pulled out and the country is in chaos as they try to fill the power gap. Of course, the Irish attack while the men are meeting and Tristan escapes death only because Lord Marke steps in to save him, losing a hand in the process. We see Isolde as a child as well, burying her mother, then back to Tristan. Lord Marke has brought him home to raise him as his own and we see that even as a child, Tristan excels in warfare.

Then we fast forward 9 years. Isolde has been betrothed to her father's top general as a reward for service, something she is unhappy about. Tristan is a leader of men, and when the Irish attack again, he kills the Irish general, but is wounded himself and believed dead. His people, following their burial custom, put him on a boat and his body is sent out to sea.

Isolde finds him on the beach near her home--injured and unconscious, but very much alive--hides him from her people and nurses him back to health. The two of them fall in love along the way, though she gives him her maid's name and doesn't admit to being the king's daughter.

After Tristan is home again, word comes that the Irish king will give over his daughter in marriage--as well as her dowry--to the man who wins her in some kind of fighting tournament. Tristan convinces Lord Marke to make deals with the other barons to unite the country behind him and share the dowry if they throw their fights and allow Tristan to win (he's fighting in Lord Marke's name). Tristan doesn't discover who Isolde really is until it's far too late.

I'll leave the description of the movie there, although anyone who's read the story knows what happens.

I thought the prologue scenes of the movie with Tristan and Isolde as children were unnecessary. It does help explain why Tristan loves and honors Lord Marke so much, but beyond that, it serves no real purpose and I believe these feelings could have been shown within the story rather than wasting so much time on the opening. Same thing with the fact that the Irish don't want the Britons to unite and that Tristan's father's plan to do just that brought on the attack.

The battle scenes were violent, but seemed realistic enough. I spent a lot of time looking away when they fought so I'm sure they did a good job with this. :-)

Tristan and Isolde falling in love--well, that wasn't quite so good. I felt like I blinked and missed it happening. I should probably rewatch this part of the movie to see if it occurred as quick as it felt or if I wasn't paying strict attention, but I doubt that I will. In any case, their relationship didn't seem heart-deep to me and I was disappointed in this aspect of the movie.

There was intrigue going on--a power struggle between Lord Marke and this one particular baron--and this was the catalyst for some of the events in the story. There was also the very sexy Melot. Yummmm! Henry Cavill is the actor's name and he is absolutely gorgeous. I lived for the moments he was on screen so I could drool. :-)

Edited to add: The end of the movie left me with some unanswered questions. I won't go into them since I don't want to spoil anything for someone who wants to watch the movie, but damn it, I hate loose ends!

Overall, the movie was a pleasant enough way to pass some time, but I wouldn't put it in the must-see category. My rating is 3 stars, which means I liked it.