It’s a perfect moment to lose yourself in a film fairytale. In this classic of the genre, Jean Cocteau’s fantasy is a beautiful otherworld; dark, gothic with a sensual undertone. But remember – fairytales are there to tell us something, and here is a tale of being stuck indoors, not exactly imprisoned but confined by a sense of moral duty. Beauty sacrifices her life to save her father, by putting herself in the power of a hideous Beast who lives in an enchanted castle. Perhaps not so bad.

To an 18th-century peasant the enchanted castle in which Belle is self-isolating must have seemed an impossibly gilded cage full of finery and comforts; to us, it’s not so far from our modern homes. Belle even has a magic mirror for family face-time. She, like us, must wait out the days till a solution can be found to a seemingly insurmountable situation. Until then, remember – if you begin to see arms coming through the walls, or are troubled by the howls of the Beast, take comfort from Cocteau’s poetic rendering of this romantic tale and trust that one day it will be alright, and we will all live happily ever after.

Bryony Dixon
Curator, Film & TV Fiction

Originally published: 8 May 2020