Tristan + Isolde at Hoyts, Broadway

Tristan + Isolde had at least as many anachronisms as Troy, and possibly more. My personal favourite was the quote from John Donne, though I was also rather fond of the fancy roll-down map, with removable boundary lines. And in my reading of Rosemary Sutcliff, I seem to have missed the part of the Dark Ages where Ireland conquered England.

But I think the main problem with the film was the two central characters. I’ll admit, I do tend to start out with a basic lack of sympathy for Tristan and Isolde (like Lancelot and Guenevere) – the whole “you can’t help what you feel but you can help what you do about it” principle. Which isn’t to say there aren’t times I find them sympathetic, since the whole duty-versus-desire struggle can be a very powerful driving force. But this film wasn’t one of those times. Having made the decision to give up Isolde, Tristan then started behaving like a jealous and sulky teenager. And then once he was over that, the presentation of Isolde shifted into the whole “tempting the hero from the paths of honour and righteousness” mould, which I find particularly annoying (and more than a little offensive). Given the way the part was written, I think Sophia Myles did a reasonably good job of it; but possibly an actor other than James Franco could have made Tristan seem a bit more of an adult.

Spoiler follows: I was pleased to see they had the guts to kill Tristan off at the end (unlike Paris in Troy – maybe this says something about James Franco’s value versus Orlando Bloom’s) but I thought it was a cop out to have Isolde just disappear. With the whole duty thing, plus the fact that she did actually like and respect Marke, I’d have been happier if she had stayed with him and they had achieved what he wanted, even though she could never truly love him. Or something like that.

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