Not Much Changes With Time

Written by on January 15, 2012 in Cool Stuff and Reviews - 10 Comments


We are all still, and will always be, a slave to our passions.  How difficult is it for a beautiful woman to resist the entice of a man’s passions even when those passions may prove to last only as long as the object of their desire holds out?  That is just one of the questions in The Princess of Montpensier, a beautiful French film adapted from the book of the same title by Madame de La Fayette: a woman who, in her time, seemed to have an inclination towards writing about the doomed passionate love affair.

The lovely and talented Melanie Thierry stars as the beautiful Princess who manages to arouse many a passion in the men who meet her (including the highest of royalty).  Forced to marry the Prince of Montpensier, the princess still holds a flame for her childhood love, The Duke of Guise.  But is his passion for her true or just a fleeting desire that will pass when it’s fire is kindled?

The true tragedy of the story lies, however, in its truth and bearing still in today’s modern times.  Here we have, in its simplicity, the story of a beautiful woman unable to fully love and appreciate her faithful (though rather jealous) husband because of the passion she still holds in her heart for another who, by any adaptation made today, would always still be cast in the guise of a player (in fact his name is actually, interestingly enough “Guise”).  The Princess’s beauty is not any less endearing than her natural innocence and simple charming manner capable of arousing the hearts of so many men.  So why does she then choose the least worthy of her affections?  Is it because he is the most obvious in declaring them?

The problem is not one that we can dismiss into the time in which it was written or even into the time in which it was cast.  The problem seems to be enduring and with us still, especially considering the all too high divorce rate these days.  Though, in this case, the Princess is forced to obey her father’s whims and ambitions and marry a man she does not know or love against her will.  Yet the man is, by any account “a good catch” and one who truly desires to feel the love of his wife.  He is handsome and educated and well versed in the language of poetry and art.  He is even, in fact, a man of integrity and understanding and would possibly one day even make a truly good King or ruler.  All she really needs to do to enter into the world of happiness is to allow herself to know him and to love him.  But, when it comes to affection, the two seem to awkwardly shy away from each other, though he (privately and to his tutor) obviously longs for her love and devotion.  Why does he not speak of his feelings and passions to her instead of chastising her with his jealousy?  And why does she not allow herself to understand his needs and show him the love he so desires and deserves?

The theme has become the obvious cliche of all time and is still even true today: the beautiful innocent who cannot love her shy, learned husband but falls instead for the player who showers her with his fleeting affections.  The misunderstandings of a married couple are, in this case, very simply explained by the fact that the two are arranged and forced to marry because of the interests of the fathers and all too often not in the interests of love.  But that would be a much too simple way of attending to the story.  Even today when most of us have the opportunity to choose our own spouses or partners, do we not face the same temptations and the same failures?  How well do we really ever even know the people we take a vow of “foreverness” for (even though we choose them), and how long does that vow remain true in this modern love of easy endings and even easier beginnings?

The focus of the story could be that of a woman following her feelings, rather than her brain and modesty.  But even at the start of the story, the Princess is not promised to be married to her love (who is to be saved for a more ambitious marriage instead), but is instead actually promised to his brother, who is too much of a dreamer to really hold much interest in her.  So she should be thrilled to have realised such a successful marriage as she does with a man who actually feels so much passion for her that it makes him much too jealous.  But she continuously rejects him for the man who was always to hold out for a better, more appropriate match that is to serve to lift his station in life.  And, yet, she falls for him over and over and over again, despite the warnings of so many other seekers of her hand, including her husband, her wise tutor, the son of the Queen (who also desires her), and even the Queen herself.

We can say that the Princess is too innocent and pure to see the error of her ways or we can say that nothing will stand in the way of “true love”.  But then are we any wiser today?  Do we choose who we love any better, or do we go for the one who showers us with the prettiest words and the most obvious deeds, shunning perhaps the better, more faithful, more worthy match.  And do we take the time to learn to love and understand our partners any better with the wisdom and freedom of time?  Will time ever move to a point when we are able to more correctly decide who to love and who to stay away from and then to find a way to showcase that love and to fill ourselves with understanding for our spouse or partner?  So far, we seem to be centuries away from that.


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