Beauty and the Beast

In this remake of a classic Disney film, a prince is transformed into a beast as punishment for his arrogance. An enchantress tells him he will only break the spell if he learns to love and earns the love of another. If he does not do this before a rose sheds its petals, he will remain a beast for ever. Years later he takes a man named Maurice prisoner in his castle. Maurice’s daughter Belle offers to take her father’s place, and the beast accepts. A tale of romance and redemption follows. Belle and the beast confront both emotional and physical challenges, while her father and a jealous former suitor, Gaston, try to rescue her from the castle.


The beast is imprisoned in his castle — and metaphorically trapped in his hideous body, perhaps for ever, as a result of his vanity. He responds by imprisoning Maurice and then Belle. Belle’s response to her predicament varies: at times she is frightened, at others she takes the chance to care for the beast. She must also contend with her captor’s romantic feelings towards her.


Belle is a confident young woman who takes her father’s place when he gets himself into a dangerous situation. She is a keen reader and an inventor. And she rejects the advances of the narcissistic Gaston. But she also develops a romantic attachment to her captor and requires rescuing from a pack of wolves. What message does the film give about the role of women?


LeFou is the sidekick of Gaston — a former soldier spurned by Belle when he asks for her hand in marriage. He must contend with his attraction to his male companion. His confusion helps to create Disney’s first “exclusively gay moment”. How meaningful is this? What is the state of gay rights around the world? And how should we respond to differences in sexuality?


Perhaps the enchantress is the film’s true central character. The spell she places upon the beast is the driving force behind the whole plot. She also challenges his servants by turning them into inanimate objects such as a teapot, a clock and a wardrobe. Why are we so attached to fantasy stories? And what should we make of the relationship between magic and reality?


The film explores a diverse array of relationships. Belle’s developing bond with the beast is at the heart of the story. But it also sees friendships tested; servants displaying loyalty to a master who has placed them in a dire situation; and family ties stretched. How important is companionship? What forms does it take? And is romantic attachment the truest form of love?