Great minds think alike Vol. 1 – Two film adaptations

“Cocteau leaves many doors open, and I went through them with my version” – Christophe Gans’ Beauty and the Beast

One of the most prominent adaptations in the Walk This Way catalogue is Christophe Gans’ version of The Beauty and the Beast (2014). With the help of special effects and 3D animation, Gans gives a new life to the fairytale first published by Madame de Villeneuve in 1740. The tale has gone through various metamorphoses- in an early stage it gained more publicity in the form of a shorter version by French author Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont (1756) and later it found its way to film. In 1946 it was famously adapted for the screen by Jean Cocteau as live-action feature, Beauty and the Beast.
For Gans, the legacy of the past bears on the adaptation of the material, echoing the story itself. “I’d say that I wasn’t looking to do a remake of the Cocteau version, but rather a new adaptation of the fairytale. […] Cocteau leaves many doors open, and I went through them with my version,” the director describes in his reasons to give new life to the fairytale.
One of these open doors was the role of Belle, who Gans considered a secondary character in the 1946 adaptation and decided to give centre stage in his own version. “I wanted to revisit Belle and place her initiation process, her transition from a child to a woman, at the centre of my story.”
Adaptations and remakes of previous films often complement their predecessors and contribute to a certain cult status, as well. Gans pays tribute to precedence with his loyalty to the dance scene in the Disney version (1993), explaining that “it seemed unthinkable to make a new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast without including the dance – it is still the most striking image in Disney’s animated version.”
Watch the irresistible Disney scene here and compare it to Gans’ interpretation- starring Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassel- available as VoD in the Premium Films catalogue.
A selection of film adaptations and remakes include:

  • The Beauty and the Beast (France 1946) D: Jean Cocteau – inspiration to Gans, his cast (see the Interviews with Christophe Gans, Léa Seydoux & Vincent Cassel) and many more.                                                                 
  • The scarlet flower (USSR 1978) D:  Irina Powolozkaja – a Russian adaptation                                                         
  • Beauty and the Beast (aka Blood of Beasts 2005) Director: David Lister – set in Viking times

“So one can say that I found in the novel the promise of both narrative and visual pleasure….In other words, the promise of true cinematic pleasure!” – Dominik Moll’s The Monk

Written in a similar era, The Monk (1796) was supposedly penned in just 10 weeks by 19 year-old author Matthew Gregory Lewis. It now serves as the basis for Dominik Moll’s adaptation of The Monk (2011), starring Vincent Cassel as the virtuous Brother Ambrosio who is about to fall from grace into love (read the article here).
As part of the Premium Films from Walk This Way, The Monk builds on the scandal of when it was first published, though, he admits, “I must say that today its scandalous aspect has faded. Incidentally, this is not the book’s main draw; today it’s subject matter seems much more playful and less shocking than for example certain of the works by the Marquis de Sade, one of Lewis’ contemporaries.” In the 18th century, though, the first uncensored edition was highly sought after, as the story was trimmed of its most controversial and immoral passages for a second version (1798).
What the director still finds in the work is “the promise of both narrative and visual pleasure… In other words, the promise of true cinematic pleasure!” hence the motivation for adapting this gothic novel, which has inspired other writers such as E. T. A. Hoffmann (The Devil’s Elixir) and Victor Hugo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
A selection of adaptations and remakes include:

  • Le Moine, de Lewis, raconté par Antonin Artaud (1931) Writer: Antonin Artaud – a recount of the original by Antonin Artaud
  • The Monk (Le Moine) (1972) Director: Ado Kyrou, Screenplay: Luis Buñuel & Jean-Claude Carrière – the first movie adaptation
  • Seduction of a Priest (1990) Director: Francisco Lara Polop

Drawing on others’ work, both adaptations give a new angle to the stories by exploring doors left open in previous versions and seeking the cinematic pleasure of transforming these tales into audio-visual experiences. Directors are able to add personal twists to the storylines by re-examining the core philosophies and approaching them with fresh perspectives. The films can now be seen as VoD in the Walk This Way Premium Films’ catalogue.

01 November 2015, by Cineuropa

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