Tristan and Isolde Film Review
Tristan and Isolde adapts the famous medieval tragedy Tristan and Iseult. There are many different forms of the tale though this film does not adhere to any particular version. Instead, screenwriter Dean Georgearis has opted for a more realistic retelling, involving no magic spells or love potions. There are some who say that this ancient story was the precursor to the famous forbidden love affair of Guinevere and Lancelot. Set during a time of great conflict shortly after the Romans had left Britain this is not only a story of love but also of the bloody birth of an England united under one ruler. Starring Sophia Myles, James Franco and Rufus Sewell the film perfectly brings to life the age-old conflict between love and duty.
Isolde is the only daughter of the brutal conquering Irish King Donnchadh. Tristan, became the adoptive son of Lord Marke, after an attack by the Irish leads to the death of his parents. Unaware of each other’s true identities, the Princess Isolde saves Tristan’s life and nurses him back to health. During this time the two fall in love. However, Tristan must return to his own land to the people who believe him dead. The next time the two meet is on the day Tristan unknowingly wins Isolde’s hand in marriage on the behalf of the newly crowned King Marke.
This is a sumptuous period drama with wonderful writing, glorious costumes (especially Isolde’s) and an incredibly strong cast. Chief among these performances is that of Rufus Sewell as the conflicted and honourable Lord Marke choosing to portray him as a fair man caught in an awful situation. And Sophia Myles is excellent as always and extremely sympathetic. Produced by Ridley Scott, the man responsible for Gladiator, this was bound to be a film with a degree of the epic.
The battles and fight scenes are exciting but do not overstay their welcome. The political drama is thrilling providing genuine conflict in the heart of the viewer between wishing the lovers happiness and understanding the fragility of the peace Marke’s rule brings. The love story is also compelling with a believable chemistry between Sophia Myles and James Franco. The film is moving and terribly sad. The thing that makes it especially tragic is that no party is truly at fault. Tristan, Isolde and Lord Marke are simply victims of circumstance and the political machinations of those around them.
Tristan and Isolde looks beautiful often like something out of a fairy-tale and is hopelessly romantic. The director utilised the natural beauty of Ireland with the help of great sets and lovingly detailed costumes to produce a film virtually flawless in appearance. The entire production comes together to create an entertaining and magical cinematic experience. I advise anyone with a fondness for myth, historical drama or simply just good storytelling to watch Tristan and Isolde.
Photo credits: 20th Century Fox
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My
feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me
to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
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4 thoughts on “Film Review: Tristan and Isolde (2006) – A Star-Crossed Medieval Tragedy”
Great movie that is often overlooked among period dramas. Rufus Sewell definitely steals the show imo. Although James and Sophia were great in their own right.
I actually have read some of the original versions of the story through an Arthurian Lit class I took in college, and the movie is definitely different! In most of the versions Tristan & Isolde are very unlikable characters.
Agreed. Its a pity more people haven’t seen it. From what I know of older versions (which admittedly is not all that much), I prefer this realistic and genuinely romantic retelling.
I saw this movie not to long ago. Rufus Sewell was by far my favorite. 🙂 I do feel like if Isolde and Tristan had been honest at the beginning and told Lord Marke before the wedding they were in love, he would’ve been understanding.
I agree, though I’m not sure how they’d have explained it to the other nobles and the Irish King if he allowed them to marry instead.