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Tristan & Isolde

Film Three Stars

I have to admit that I wasn't going to go and see the film Tristan & Isolde since it was being sold on the posters as the biggest romantic movie epic since Romeo and Juliet. However the very cool Edinburgh Ocean Terminal Vue was having a Press screening and I couldn't say no.

So I arrived ready for a cheese filled experience of romance and an over emotional tragedy. You'll already see from the stars awarded that I was quite surprised by the film, and in a number of ways.

TristanandIsolde_Poster.jpgYes indeed, there is a certain amount of cheese and tweeness in the story, apparent from the very start as the characters are introduced together, but living totally separate lives. You can see straight away where the plot is headed too, but that's when the pleasant surprises start to appear.

The first battle is a big surprise, it's harsh and quite brutal, surprisingly so for its 12A rating. There's not blood and gore nor are there any actual connected hits with axes, blades or hammers. There's just the violent swing followed by the sounds and realisation. It actually gives a lot more to your imagination and for a younger audience I think this would be more brutal than you would expect. By no means am I saying it should be a higher rating, just proceed with some caution.

For me though, that surprise is really good because that soft and twee side of the story is instantly changed by the brutality of the battle and the portrayal of day to day life. That style is shown throughout the film with harsher lighting and faded colours, giving the feel of a far from idyllic and easy life.

Some of the characters, rather than follow that romantic epic template that you expect, make some quite tough decisions. Decisions that are closer to real life, real decisions and real anguish. This pulled me into the story more than the romantic epic part, which so often I find gets lost in improbable character choices and plot turns.

Something else that is quite engaging about the film are the characters themselves, they are quite well developed and provide a good degree of conflict because many of them are grey, and as I've said they make poor choices.

Both leads are good, with Sophia Myles and Rufus Sewell providing strong performances. Mark Strong plays a great character, Wictred, who is enjoyably dark. There could have been more development of the relationship between the Kings son and Tristan, but there's enough to get you through.

I liked the style of filming, the strong lighting and washed out colours to the outdoor shots with some great scenery and superb location shots. Castles and ruins mixed with dark, moody hillscapes. Something else caught me while watching this, and I wasn't sure if this was down to me being alone in the cinema or not, but the sound was some of the best I've heard in the cinema. There was good separation and sound effects were quite noticeable around me, but were still quite subtle - the flowing water, the passing breeze, the sounds of battle. It certainly matched my home cinema experience for audio which I find so often falls short in the cinema.

Overall I did enjoy the film, and although no tears were shed there were some moving moments in the middle of the film. I much preferred the scenes of the life of these people with the Clans and Irish preparing for battle over the romantic aspects of the story, and yet because the entire film doesn't just focus on the romance and provides a few harsh realities, it becomes much stronger and much more accessible.

When I started watching I didn't realise that the Scott brothers were behind the Production, although looking back I can see the similarities, thankfully though it was very restrained for them! Entertaining, and not the romantic cheese you'd expect.

Edinburgh Ocean Terminal Vue
IMDB Film Details



I need a love story to perk up my lovelife- thanks for the review Richard.


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