Monday, 28 September 2020
Tristan & Isolde
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Saturday, 14 January 2006 20:07

Romance is alive!
No, no it’s dead; Oh, no wait… it’s alive again!

Tristan & Isolde seems to have popped out of the woodwork without much warning. It was only about a month ago that I even heard about the film based on the well-known Irish legend, and now here it is! That is a good thing, because too much hype may have detracted from the fact that Tristan & Isolde is a pleasantly, and surprisingly good film.

Director Kevin Reynolds guides with his straightforward storytelling style. Though not a brilliant director, he is a suitable choice with movies like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Count of Monte Cristo under his belt. He wisely chose to set this story in the real world, not one of love-potions and wizardry. With the magical elements boiled away, we are left with a love triangle that deeply affects the lives of everyone involved.

The story takes place circa 600 AD. Britain is no longer occupied by the Romans, but is under new threat from King Donnchadh (David O’Hara) who rules from Ireland. It is the lifelong dream of Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell) to unite the tribes of Britain under one rule and rid them of Irish invaders. When Tristan is a boy, Marke saves his life during a raid and raises him as a son. His loyalty to Marke will prove to be the greatest torment of Tristan’s life.

I don’t want to give away everything about the story, but of course the title characters are destined to meet. Tristan (James Franco) is believed to have died in battle, but luckily for him he is sent out to sea for burial. He is carried across to Ireland where the Princess Isolde (Sophia Myles) discovers him on the shore. Miraculously he isn’t dead at all! As she nurses him back to health they fall in love, but because of her royal obligations she cannot tell him her true name.

In the midst of all the romance are politics and battles. A tournament orchestrated by the King helps to seal the tragic fate of the young lovers. In a series of events beyond their control, Tristan and Isolde find themselves in a situation that means they can never be together.

For the most part this film captures life during this period of history. The people are rugged, the living conditions rough. Isolde stands out not because of beautiful gowns and jewels, but because she is vibrant and healthy looking. You can see why she would be such a prize to powerful men wishing to continue their bloodline.

The performance that stood out the most for me was that of Rufus Sewell as Lord Marke. He has been in movies such as Dark City and A Knight’s Tale, but you might recognize him as “the man with independently blinking eyelids”. (Seriously, they really do!) It’s nice to see him with a strong role, and not typecast as the villain. I was impressed with Sophia Myles as well. Though Isolde is young, she brings maturity to the role.

I worry about the audience for a film like this. The posters and commercials with Evanescence playing in the background and lines like “Before Romeo and Juliet there was…” are obviously targeting a young demographic. On opening night the theatre was half filled with young people giggling and smirking at the love scenes (my apologies if you are a young person who giggles and smirks at love scenes). I just have an unfortunate feeling that the film won’t find much of an audience until it hits DVD.

I give Tristan and Isolde 7 out of 10 stars.