Friday, 18 October 2013

30 Days of Horror | Day 18

A Movie With Unsettling Scenery
La Belle et la Bête

Day 18, and once again I have chosen a film that is not actually a horror film, but one which uses an aspect of the cinematic medium in a way that is evocative of the genre.

Jean Cocteau's adaptation of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale is a magical fantasy-romance that is host to some truly beautiful costumes, sets and makeup effects. Outside of the Beasts castle the scenery is all very mundane, the home of Belle and her family is relatively bare and ordinary and emphasises the young girls provincial life, (sorry, I couldn't resist). To contrast this the cursed castle that homes the Beast is extravagant and alive. The set design utilises some truly incredible effects through which arms and faces that come to life control the scenery. The inspired use of actors making up parts of the set allows Cocteau to realise the stories curse, which brings everything within the castle to life, in a practical and imaginative way that is a pleasure to watch.

The additional result of these effects is the creation of an eery atmosphere that persists throughout Belle's time in the castle. The stark black and white cinematography alone constructs the castle as a dark and mysterious location, but the addition of disembodied limbs controlling each room amplifies this interpretation of the castle. The trees that surround the castle open up to let visitors in and close behind them, creating an impression of seclusion, while a shot of Belle wandering down a long corridor with white drapes blowing in the wind becomes an extremely ghostly image. The live statues that adorn the castle are undoubtedly the most unsettling aspect of the scenery however, as they silently turn their faces to follow Belles movements through each room.

La Belle et la Bête is a stunning film that perfectly captures the magic of the story in a unique way. While the films story is not one of horror, the manipulation of scenery that is displayed here and the effect that is has is something that a good many supernatural horror films could learn from. 

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