Connect with us
Belle film review
Image: Studio Chizu

Film

Belle Subverts its Classic Fairy Tale Origins to Bring Something Truly Fresh to its Genre

Suzu, a teenager living with her father in a small town in the mountains. In virtual world called “U”, Suzu is Belle, a musical icon.

London Film Festival 2021
Belle: The Dragon and the Freckled Princess Review

When Mamoru Hosoda’s latest animation opened in Cannes earlier this year, it received a 14-minute standing ovation. Not entirely unheard of in the world’s most volatile film festival, it’s notable that an animation could provoke such intense feelings among a hard-to-please crowd.

Welcome to “U”, a virtual world in which a user is biometrically scanned to create an avatar, a reflection of their inner strengths and power. When 17-year-old Suzu (Kaho Nakamura) is introduced to the platform by a friend, “Belle” is created, an elegant, elf-like creature complete with long pink hair, the freckles that dot Suzu’s real face, and a wicked singing voice, capturing the attention of every single of the other 5 billion of the world’s users.

Except, however, a particular user named The Dragon (Takeru Satoh), whose first run-in with Belle is unintentional and fraught with danger. Hunted by the world’s security team, he is known for being violent and aggressive, a threat to the others – excluding Belle, who suspects there is more to the beast than meets the eye.

No points for guessing which fairy tale this draws inspiration from. A direct reference to both Cocteau’s 1946 La Belle et La Bête and, more specifically Disney’s 1991 classic, this is a modern retelling of beauty meeting beast, albeit with darker edges. Hosoda (who had a crisis of faith in his chosen medium right before seeing the latter) subverts the expectations of what a Beauty and the Beast story can be, and hits refresh on the traditional fairytale.

Belle Review
Image: Studio Chizu

With a blend of 2D animation and CGI, it’s certainly one of the most stunningly animated films of the past decade, a colourful, vivid, imaginative palette in a league of its own. Bizarrely, the world of U is akin to a computer chip from a God’s -eye perspective; upon closer inspection, it’s a vast space filled with drab buildings and emptiness, until you realise it makes its users (which include a baby dressed in pink and small white angel-like creature with a crown) pop even more, a decision which aids the contrast between Belle and The Dragon.

Animation which serves both a younger audience and an older has also never looked better during its set-pieces, of which there are a fair few; see, for example, The Dragon propel himself and a member of the security team into a building – as the glass from the windows shatter, shards appear at various points of focus for the viewer, immersing you into this virtual world as much as its fictional users.

It is also genuinely funny, and its sense of humour runs throughout its run. One scene set in a train station waiting room brilliantly and relatably captures the awkwardness and embarrassment involved in teenage romance, whilst Suzu’s best friend Hiro (Lilas Ikuta) provides most of the laughs as her acerbic best friend. Without entering into spoiler territory, it’s a hard film to balance such comedic timing, but manages it all the same.

If there’s one thing the Belle doesn’t quite nail, it’s its two-hour runtime, with the film not very good at goodbyes. It’s cuts to black only to pick back up again on a number of occasions, and some of these scenes can be easily cut. However, for a film as beautiful as this – it does pack one hell of a punch during a third-act musical number – it’s a minor issue in an otherwise exceptional work, worthy of a 14-minute standing ovation.

The BFI London Film Festival runs from October 6 to the 17th. Visit the festival’s official website for more info.

Now Streaming

Written By

Roni Cooper is a twenty-something from the UK who spends her time watching any and every film put in front of her. Her favourites include 'Singin' in the Rain', 'Rear Window', 'Alien' and 'The Thing', and she will watch absolutely anything in which Jessica Chastain stars. When not in front of a screen, be it small or silver, she can be found taking care of her spoilt but adorable dog and refusing to make the move from physical to digital media.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Facebook

Trending

Vesper poster Vesper poster

Vesper: Sci-Fi That Thinks Big With Limited Means

Culture

Full Metal Jacket (1987) Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Full Metal Jacket – Stanley Kubrick’s Misunderstood Masterpiece

Film

Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies

A Full List Of Upcoming Marvel Studios Film And TV Releases

Culture

Robocop 1987 Robocop 1987

RoboCop is a Social Satire That Gets More Relevant With Age

Film

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues

Comics

Nope Nope

Jordan Peele’s Nope Explained: A Spectacle of “Bad Miracles”

Film

Alex's War (2022) Alex's War (2022)

Alex’s War, a Documentary Study of Alex Jones, Misses the Big Picture 

Film

Signs movie review Signs movie review

M. Night Shyamalan Signs Finds Comfort at the End of the World

Film

Biography: WWE Legends’ Look at Goldberg is One of the Best Wrestling Documentaries Ever 

TV

All Out 2022 Predictions All Out 2022 Predictions

Way Too Early Predictions for All Out 2022

Wrestling

Detective vs Sleuths Detective vs Sleuths

Detective vs. Sleuths: Buckle Up for a Bumpy Ride

Culture

The Gray Man movie review The Gray Man movie review

Netflix’s The Gray Man is its Most Expensive and Emptiest Star Vehicle

Culture

Incredible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin Fan Film Takes The Franchise Into R-Rated Territory

Culture

Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop 1987 Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop 1987

Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop is an Anti-Fascist Classic 

Film

Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con

Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con 2022: A Full Recap

Culture

High Noon at 70: When Time is of the Essence

Features

Connect