Wednesday, March 15, 2006

TRISTAN & ISOLDE: A Heart-rending Love Story

(romantic adventure)
Time: 125 mins
Rating: * * *
Sophia Myles and James Franco
THE legendary love story of Tristan and Isolde has all the magical and tragic elements of Lancelot and Guinevere — and more. Yet it was not deemed to be as marketable as the Arthurian legend by Hollywood’s film-makers.

This movie was reportedly ‘dumped’ by 20th Century Fox into the cinemas at this ‘slow’ time of the year without much advertising support — after languishing on the shelf for more than a year. In fact film-maker Ridley Scott had been trying to get this movie off the ground for 25 years and although he did not direct it (the task went to Kevin Reynolds), he served as executive producer on the project. Fans of Scott’s works, like Kingdom Of Heaven, may find some of Scott’s trademarks in this version of Tristan & Isolde.

The movie is set in the British Isles in the 7th Century after the fall of the Roman Empire. Ireland’s King Donnchadh (David Patrick O’Hara) of the Celts has conquered many of the British tribes who have been too busy squabbling among themselves to put up any resistance. Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell) tries to unite the British clans when Donnchadh’s men attack — and kill young Tristan’s parents. Marke adopts the boy and raises him as his own son.

When the Irish raiders next attack their village, Tristan (James Franco) successfully sets a trap for them — but he is wounded by a poisoned weapon and falls into a coma. Thinking that he is dead, the Brits put Tristan’s body on a boat for the customary ‘sea burial’. The boat finds its way to Ireland where Tristan is found by Isolde (Sophia Myles), the beautiful daughter of Donnchadh.

She nurses him back to health — and yes, they fall in love in an idyllic cave near the beach. To continue to stay alive, Tristan returns to Britain — and that’s when a series of events conspire to turn their love story into a tragedy. Donnchadh offers Isolde as a prize bride to the British tribes in a tournament, and Tristan, not knowing who Isolde really is, wins the prize for Marke, who is now king of Britain. The marriage of Isolde and Marke is actually a scheme by Donnchadh to gain more power — and Tristan and Isolde have to contend with secret meetings and stolen kisses.

This is a poignant tale about true love and duty to the king — and we can’t help feeling that singer Enya’s ballads would have helped to add colour to it. There isn’t any memorable performance here but Myles gives dignity and radiance to Isolde, a victim of mistaken intentions. Franco appears awkward at first but he warms up to the role gradually to generate the requisite screen chemistry with Myles. Sewell is effective as the sensible King Marke, a role similar to King Arthur’s. Tristan & Isolde has enough sparks to please the romantics and those who love a good cry.


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