"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." – G. K. Chesterton

Posts tagged ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Chesterton on Beauty and the Beast

Now that I’ve commented on the revival of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in theatres, it seems as good a time as any to present one of Chesterton’s greatest passages, thefamous section from Orthodoxy concerning fairy tales.

But I deal here with what ethic and philosophy come from being fed on fairy tales. If I were describing them in detail I could note many noble and healthy principles that arise from them. There is the chivalrous lesson of “Jack the Giant Killer”; that giants should be killed because they are gigantic. It is a manly mutiny against pride as such. For the rebel is older than all the kingdoms, and the Jacobin has more tradition than the Jacobite. There is the lesson of “Cinderella,” which is the same as that of the Magnificat—exaltavit humiles. There is the great lesson of “Beauty and the Beast”; that a thing must be loved before it is loveable. There is the terrible allegory of the “Sleeping Beauty,” which tells how the human creature was blessed with all birthday gifts, yet cursed with death; and how death also may perhaps be softened to a sleep. But I am not concerned with any of the separate statutes of elfland, but with the whole spirit of its law, which I learnt before I could speak, and shall retain when I cannot write. I am concerned with a certain way of looking at life, which was created in me by the fairy tales, but has since been meekly ratified by the mere facts.

It might be stated this way. There are certain sequences or developments (cases of one thing following another), which are, in the true sense of the word, reasonable. They are, in the true sense of the word, necessary. Such are mathematical and merely logical sequences. We in fairyland (who are the most reasonable of all creatures) admit that reason and that necessity. For instance, if the Ugly Sisters are older than Cinderella, it is (in an iron and awful sense) necessary that Cinderella is younger than the Ugly Sisters. There is no getting out of it. Haeckel may talk as much fatalism about that fact as he pleases: it really must be. If Jack is the son of a miller, a miller is the father of Jack. Cold reason decrees it from her awful throne: and we in fairyland submit. If the three brothers all ride horses, there are six animals and eighteen legs involved: that is true rationalism, and fairyland is full of it. But as I put my head over the hedge of the elves and began to take notice of the natural world, I observed an extraordinary thing. I observed that learned men in spectacles were talking of the actual things that happened—dawn and death and so on—as if they were rational and inevitable. They talked as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as necessary as the fact that two and one trees make three. But it is not. There is an enormous difference by the test of fairyland; which is the test of the imagination. You cannot imagine two and one not making three. But you can easily imagine trees not growing fruit; you can imagine them growing golden candlesticks or tigers hanging on by the tail. These men in spectacles spoke much of a man named Newton, who was hit by an apple, and who discovered a law. But they could not be got to see the distinction between a true law, a law of reason, and the mere fact of apples falling. If the apple hit Newton’s nose, Newton’s nose hit the apple. That is a true necessity: because we cannot conceive the one occurring without the other. But we can quite well conceive the apple not falling on his nose; we can fancy it flying ardently through the air to hit some other nose, of which it had a more definite dislike. We have always in our fairy tales kept this sharp distinction between the science of mental relations, in which there really are laws, and the science of physical facts, in which there are no laws, but only weird repetitions. We believe in bodily miracles, but not in mental impossibilities. We believe that a Bean-stalk climbed up to Heaven; but that does not at all confuse our convictions on the philosophical question of how many beans make five.

– G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy


Beauty and the Beast … in 3D

On Saturday night I went to a movie theatre for the first time in almost six months.  Amazingly, I managed to emerge without seeing a single depiction of or reference to torture, farting, genitilia, stoners, profanity, or anything else vile and repulsive.  I saw Beauty and the Beast, the Disney Animated version from 1992, in 3-D.

I give Beauty and the Beast two thumbs up.  It’s a very well-done fairy tale, closer to the spirit of the great Disney films of the 40’s and 50’s than anything else they’ve done in the past generation.  The jokes are sometimes funny, the music is generally funnier, the writing is sound and the characters are well-developed.  The good guys are genuinely good and the bad guys are genuinely bad.  The story elemenets, which expand on the classic tale, are arranged intelligently and hte pacing is good.  This last comes as a particular surprise when compared to modern filmmaking, which seems to be entirely shaped around the needs of the ADHD generation.  In movies these days, everything is always happening fast, and filmmakers never take the opportunity to linger on a quiet room, a peacefuls woodland scene, or anything else.

I give 3D a definite thumbs down.  Before Saturday I had never seen a movie in 3D, and afterwards I hope to never do so again.  At it’s best, the 3D adds nothing at all to the viewing experience.  Most of  the time it’s a horrendsou distraction that took me right out of the story.  Most of the scenes with a 3D element had the characters in the foreground in front of a painted background.  This only made it painfully obvious that the characters were very two-dimensional andlooked like cardboard puppets dancing around in front of a cardboard backdrop.  Worse, in many cases, the objects in the foreground appeared to have ridiculous placement and proportions.  In the ballroom scene the audience at one point looks down from above, with a chandelier in the foreground and the floor and walls behind it.  The perspective makes it look as if the chandelier is miles high, whereas in the original 2-D version it appeared to be at exactly the right height.  Similarly in the castle’s front entrance hall, there’s a staircase in which the lower part sticks straight out at the viewer, appearing to be the length of a football field.  In the original it looked just fine.

If anyone from Hollywood chances to read this (yeah, right) here’s my advice.  Give up on 3D, and make better, more tasteful movies, and you’ll be more likely to get me to the theatre.

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