Credits: 2006 ApolloProMedia GmbH & Co. 1. Filmproduktion KG (I), Epsilon Motion Pictures, Franchise Pictures, QI Quality International GmbH & Co. KG, Scott Free Productions, Stillking Films, World 2000 Entertainment
Amazon Product Description: From executive producer Ridley Scott (Gladiator) comes a sweeping, action-packed saga of epic battles, political intrigue and forbidden passion, set in a time when the lines between heroism and savagery were etched in fire and carved out with broadswords. After the fall of Rome, visionary warlord Marke (Rufus Sewell) seeks to unite the squabbling English tribes to form one strong nation and defeat brutal Irish King Donnchadh. But when Lord Marke’s greatest and most loyal knight, Tristan (James Franco), falls in love with Isolde (Sophia Myles), a beautiful Irish woman, it threatens to destroy the fragile truce and ignite a war. In the spirit of Braveheart and A Knight’s Tale, TRISTAN+ ISOLDE is a rousing tale of trust and treachery that will leave you breathless!
Coming from an Asian country, the only times I find myself immersed in European legends is when I actually go out and look for them. I’ve read books on Norse, Celtic, Greek mythologies and Arthurian Legends with relish but I have never encountered the story of Tristan and Isolde until I saw this motion picture.
This movie’s selling line is “Before Romeo and Juliet, There was Tristan and Isolde.” Actually, it seemed more like Lancelot and Guinevere’s story to me than Romeo and Juliet’s. While the plot involves war between the Irish and the English, the romance is actually centered in a love triangle. You might conclude, without reading your Arthurian Legends, that Tristan and Isolde may have been the basis for Lancelot and Guinevere’s story simply because the setting is much more primitive, though the conflict is generally identical. You will not see large keeps or vassals or political order in the beginning. Everyone starts from scratch. Literally.
Like King Arthur, King Marke is portrayed as a benevolent leader who is blinded by his love for his wife Isolde. Isolde, on the other hand, is blinded by her infatuation with Tristan. The feeling is mutual, much to King Marke’s despair. The most prominent versions of the Tristan and Isolde story are very detailed and has far more depth than what was shown in this motion picture. For one, there are more characters; 13th-14th century proses even included the Knights of Round Table into the accounts. Second, many of the ancient tellings had been injected with a bit of magic and sorcery.
This film revolved only around Marke, Tristan, Isolde and had a few weak but token villains here and there. This adaptation isn’t so bad, considering the fact that you can’t exactly fit a romance of epic proportions into 125 minutes of screen time. It is also quite realistic, seeing as Tristan and Isolde grew to love each other naturally — without the help of the infamous love potion that made the legend somewhat hilarious. You’ll just feel helpless as you watch such passionate love ruthlessly bound by fate and duty.
If there’s one actor who shone brightly than the rest, it was Rufus Sewell. He left a lasting impact in my memory as the vile, lust-crazed Agamemnon (Helen of Troy) and the sinister Count Adhemar (A Knight’s Tale). Tristan and Isolde features another side of Mr. Sewell. It was the first time I saw him play the vulnerable cuckold, who’s torn by love, friendship, loyalty and duty. You can actually feel his anguish — the hate he wants to harbor, but is rendered weak because of his close ties to the protagonists. He becomes paradoxical — a strong, decisive commander whose downfall is his heart. The betrayal is intense, as he had risked life and limb countless times for Tristan.
The film may not be the greatest ever when it comes to legendary retellings, but it’s pretty cohesive and well delivered. For those who are interested in historicals, this is one title you may want to add to your collection.
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