“Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” – Westley
The Princess Bride, directed by Rob Reiner is one of the greatest love stories out there, and it’s impossible to deny that without meeting a barrage of angry fans. Described by the grandad (Peter Falk) as a tale filled with “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” it’s a cult classic that has rocked many people’s worlds.
One of those lucky individuals is me.
When I was a pre-teen, Mum put on a VHS tape with no more introduction other than, ‘You will love this film, it’s one of my favourites.’ As many first-time viewers also admit, I was hooked from the start. Now I’m a sucker for a princess / fantasy / fairy tale story, but this particular piece is far more than that. As we see within the film, the grandson who is hearing the story for the first time from his grandad slowly comes around to the idea of romance, action and comedy being stitched together into one masterpiece.
It’s one of the quirkiest films I’ve ever experienced and I have never seen anything like it since. Following the beautiful character Buttercup (Robin Wright) through her love, her heartbreak, her kidnapping, her forced marriage and her rescue, the film shows us how true love conquers all and ultimately wins. We are introduced to many exciting characters, particularly the dashing Westley, (or Man in Black as he is sometimes known) played by Cary Elwes, and the wonderful Fezzik, played by the great late Andre the Giant, alongside Inigo Montoya, portrayed by Mandy Patinkin. There are many, many amazing actors who play gorgeous characters in The Princess Bride but it would become a very long review if we were to discuss each and every one.
One of my favourite scenes is towards the end when Fezzik, Inigo and Westley are storming the castle, with Westley recovering from being ‘mostly dead’ – one of the most hilarious concepts I’ve ever heard and seen acted out. Elwes manages to carry off the floppiest body imaginable, all the while successfully staying in character and somehow saving the day (obviously; it doesn’t count as a spoiler). The whole scene depicts three men who were not originally all on good terms working together for true love and for Buttercup’s survival. We see them work together to get into the castle and then split up to follow their own causes (with the exception of Fezzik who mysteriously disappears after Westley heads for Buttercup’s suite). Everything that the film has built up to comes to fruition in this scene and it really gets your blood pumping while still retaining its element of tongue-in-cheek comedy.
We’re presented with some pretty serious themes in The Princess bride, including suicide, torture, forced marriage, death, poisoning, yet we never feel down or miserable. In fact, we find it amusing when Westley is recovering from being tortured, and he can’t even hold up his own head; and it’s hysterical when we first hear the clergyman (Peter Cook) say “Mawage!” during Buttercup’s unwilling ceremony. As well as being incredibly funny at just the right moments, it’s also an emotional roller-coaster. My heart bleeds for Inigo on his quest to avenge his father, killed by the six-fingered man, Count Rugen (Christopher Guest), when he was just a boy. Buttercup also strikes a chord with the audience when she talks about how she died the day that word came to her that Westley was dead. The grasp on true love, whether about soul mates or fathers is perfect and every viewer can relate to one relationship or another. This film draws on every aspect of love that we are capable of feeling, from grandfather and grandson, to love/hate husband and wife, to a kingdom’s love for its future queen.
“As you wish,” Westley’s famous and only line at the beginning of the film will stay with me forever. I want it printed on everything. It means ‘I love you, and I will do anything for you’. He shouts it when Buttercup has thrown him down a very steep incline to show her that it’s him: “Oh my sweet Westley!”
*Sigh* Could this film be any more perfect?
For Christmas, Mum gave me the vinyl edition of The Princess Bride soundtrack, by Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits. I’m actually listening to it right now on Spotify which is actually proving to be an intense distraction because I just want to close my eyes and open my heart to the music.
Reiner wanted a modern twist to the music and I think it’s already stood the test of time, almost 30 years later, being the most perfect cherry on the cake to one of the most perfect films in the world. You can see the scenes in your mind’s eye when you listen to the music, as it fits so snugly with the action. Synonymous with the visuals, the music is a movie in its own right, feeding you emotions and excitement while you try to get on with daily life.
You watch the film partly through the eyes of the grandson, seeing it for the first time, relishing in the wonderment, while not necessarily agreeing with his disgust at the kissing (depending on your age of course). It adds a childlike fascination to the film, as you occasionally check in with the pair reading the book together, and you listen to Peter Falk’s voice, it entrances you and you want to know more. What happens to Buttercup among the shrieking eels? Will Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) get his way? Tell me more!
With vast landscapes, intricate fire swamps and beautiful castles, it’s a gorgeous film to watch, just to take in the scenery. It’s colourful and bright, different and unique. It’s one of the most quoted films since it’s debut and one of the most loved, proven by the celebrations when it reached its 25th anniversary.
If you enjoy the film, I highly recommend reading Cary Elwes’ book, ‘As You Wish’, all about his experiences in making it and how he still feels about it now. It’s a film that has a special place in the heart of its creators and actors, but also sits snugly in its fans’ hearts, including mine.
In truth, it’s one of the more difficult films to explain, as there is so much to it, but what can be explained is the emotion that you feel when watching it. It’s a film that I love showing to friends who have not seen it and allowing them to fall in love with it as well. The perfect quotes that have been born from this film will live forever and always crop up in any situation. Just last week, Mum texted me saying “Have fun storming the castle” ten minutes before I went in for an interview (turns out on this occasion I couldn’t storm the castle, but that’s another story).
In the meantime, take Prince Humperdinck’s advice and we will look forward to the 30th anniversary celebrations next year.