Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Why did they call the movie "Tristan and Isolde"?

I went to see the movie "Tristan and Isolde" yesterday and I'm trying to figure out why they called it that. They could have called it "Thomas and Ivy," or any other two names, for all the resemblance it had to the traditonal tale. I know, I know, stories have many versions, but when there are this many changes, it becomes a different story. The filmmakers took a wonderful, rich, enduring story and completely eviscerated it. They took out all the good parts, added in quite a bit of gratuitous violence and some trite plot points, and now they're trying to pass it off as the classic story. Hmmph.

Here are a few elements the filmmakers removed:
  • Tristan's mother dying when he was born,
  • His squire Gorvenal, who is a major figure throughout the story,
  • Tristan being kidnapped by pirates,
  • Tristan finding himself in Cornwall, not knowing that King Mark of Cornwall was his uncle, his mother's brother (why did the moviemakers write it as "Marke"? Maybe because it was in Olde Englande.),
  • The giant, Morholt was Iseult's uncle, not her suitor,
  • A piece of Tristan's sword breaking off in Morholt's skull, killing him,
  • Iseult's fury at Morholt's death and her oath to kill any man from Cornwall, especially Tristan,
  • Tristan killing the dragon, thereby gaining Iseult as King Mark's wife,
  • The LOVE POTION!!!
I have to stop here before the grinding of my teeth gets worse--this is only the first part of the story, and they left out all that. There's much more they left out. I'm especially annoyed that they got rid of the love potion, because that is the pivot on which the rest of the story turns. Don't even ask me about the ending, which was a total cop-out.

There was lots of blood, lots of swordplay and arrows being shot at people. The actors were very pretty, as they should be, but they were completely uninspired. I wanted to tell Tristan to stand up straight--stop slumping, lad! The filmmakers added some stock characters (the rival nephew, the leader of another clan who was bent on betrayal) and made the story revolve around the evil King of Ireland. Huh? It's true, in the traditional versions, the Irish King levied a tax on Cornwall, but he was in favor Iseult marrying King Mark so the lands would have peace.

This could have been a wonderful movie. What a missed chance.

In response, I'll be telling the story three times in March: at the Lawrence Visitor's Center/Union Depot on March 3 (7:30 p.m., if you're in the area), at a nearby Juvenile Detention Center, and at Going Deep: the Long Traditional Story Festival in Bethlehem IN. I'll tell it and tell it and tell it. So there.


Anonymous said...

Now I don't need to see that movie. It sounds like medieval sameoldsameold.
That's right, Priscilla! Tell it and tell it and tell it, honing as you go.

PriscillaHowe said...

I noticed in the paper that "Tristan and Isolde" is no longer playing in town. Good.

Chara said...

On your advice I abstained from seeing T & I. I had an Artherian Ledgnds COurse in COllege and I know it would have disappaointed me to see it.

I did see "Hoodwinked" which was quite funny.

Chara Watson