Let me preface this with a confession which, as a guy who rights about movies should really get me fed to a Rodent Of Unusual Size. Up until a couple of hours before writing this, I had never seen The Princess Bride. I mean, I knew of it, I knew all the quotes, I knew about the special place it held in the pop culture collective unconscious, but I’d never actually sat down and watched it.
Why? Well, to be honest I don’t know, there’s a lot of things that are “Essential viewing” that I haven’t seen, but that’s not important, what’s important is that this movie might have just changed the way I look at Life Love, and Storytelling forever.
One of the main things that gripped me about The Princess Bride is how, despite being very idealistic it still doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that life, ultimately isn’t fair. The love of Buttercup and Westley may be the most incorruptibly pure ever put to screen, which in any other film would be disgustingly saccharine, but here true love is treated as the very unlikely, almost impossible thing that it should be.
As they say, “not one couple in a century has that chance, no matter what the story books say” and while that line, like the rest of the movie is brimming with meta deliciousness, and I’m gonna dwell on that, because everyone and their mother has done think-pieces on how influential The Princess Bride has been on post-modern filmmaking, I’m gonna talk about what this film means to me.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes.
There’s a trend in modern media to scoff at the idea of “true love” as an archaic fallacy of a simpler time. A dead idea in a dying world of Twitter, Tinder, and Tl;dr. It just doesn’t seem like there’s a place for it. It’s very easy to scoff at the idea, it seems ridiculous, silly even. But like most ridiculous, silly things it’s value is immeasurable. In simpler terms, I’m officially calling bullshit on the “true love is a myth” myth because of a movie about a pirate, a princess, and Andre the Giant.
It exists, it’s real, the problem is us, We’ve grown indolent, dull, inattentive, lackadaisical, lethargic, tardy, torpid and trifling, basically, we’re a bunch of lazy, god for nothing Humperdincks in a world that desperately needs more Westley’s…
What about the storytelling, you might ask? Well, I was getting to that! This film plays out like a roadmap on how to create strong, memorable characters. Every main player has a distinctive arc, and the way that they fold over and intersect with each other is nothing short of mesmerising. From Inigo Montoya’s quest for revenge to Prince Humperdick’s warmongering to Westley and Buttercups classic fairy tale romance. Any one of these character arcs would make a bland, boring, boilerplate movie. Throwing them all together? And linking them up to seamlessly? That’s how you make magic.
Every line of dialogue has a clear purpose, even if that purpose is as simple as “lets make fun of this classic fantasy trope” it still movies the story forward. The action is exquisite, with the classic duel on the cliffs of insanity quite possibly one of the most impressive displays of flynning I’ve ever seen!
…I really liked this film, can you tell?
Nowadays, passion is mocked at every turn. Putting effort into things and working towards a dream; be it love, happiness, or tracking down the man who murdered your father is derided and mocked, while we celebrate the very worst that humanity has to offer. We want the quick fix, the easy victory, and as a result, we’ve conditioned ourselves to be happy with second best.
Well, no more I say! I will throw off these shackles, this slavery to mediocrity. I invite you to join me. It’ll be a difficult quest, there will be fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles… all that good stuff!
All images owned by 20th Century Fox and ACT III Communications.