Belle – Film Review

A film that exudes positivity, technology and memorable, emotive songs are just some of the intoxicating ingredients contained within Belle as the latest Studio Chizu film. As its title suggests, as Belle is a French word, there is that merger of cultures straddling a European fan base as well as those admirers of Japanese animé. Belle may be described as an animé modern day interpretation of Beauty and the Beast and those familiar with the Disney incarnation of the film and the Jean Cocteau film La Belle et La Bête, which also connects to the protagonist’s pseudonym, may passionately agree however it would be reductive merely to describe Belle in such terms without considering its emotional substance.

Suzu entering the world of U in Belle
Suzu entering the world of U in Belle
©2021 STUDIO CHIZU

Belle is that remarkable film that will appeal to adults and children alike for, at its core, there is that human appeal for kindness and compassion in a film that showcases technology’s ability to be utilised as a force for good contrary to ongoing criticisms of the nefarious way in which technology encroaches upon daily lives and its toxic role with influencer culture as that danger for younger developing minds.

Suzu is one of those younger minds who is seduced by the power granted within the virtual world of ‘U’, after succumbing to peer pressure, to be a better version of herself with an avatar amongst this technological Internet based universe.

Of course, the system of ‘U’ polices itself and has its own rules very much like the Internet of today. But, for timid students like Suzu the system harnesses her existing strengths and helps her to find that voice after being unable to sing following a traumatic life event. This entry into the ‘U’ community all sounds fairly innocuous on the surface as long as the members of the system comply with the rules of the system to maintain the status quo. ‘U’ is that colourful world which embraces the Studio Chizu brand and director Mamoru Hosoda’s penchant for a diverse colour palette and it is easy to understand the appeal of such universe and the desperation of its members to increase their followers and their ensuing popularity by a constant presence in ‘U’. This will seem to be a reflection and political commentary of the grasp that many social media platforms hold over their subscribers today.

Belle singing in the world of U
Belle singing in the world of U
©2021 STUDIO CHIZU

Suzu’s entry as Belle within such world is spectacularly mesmerising and bathed in vibrant pinks, purples and glittering fanfare in a gasp out loud moment. Far from being confined to the themes of a fairy tale, Hosoda takes the opportunity to provide that social commentary subtly and sense of belonging which imbues hidden depth within the film and spotlights the positives and negatives of those technological devices utilised regularly, by all walks of life, to create efficiencies within daily life.

Belle, as such, embraces a plethora of themes which belie the construct of its simple tale to reveal a complex multi-layered film with a lot of heart. The beauty of the film’s structure, despite a boy meets girl element, is the underpinning of a support network from family and friends which resonates strongly with amusing Japanese cultural insights too. Within Belle, less is definitely more and so it is preferable for audiences to avoid spoilers and arrive with no pre-conceived notions, so as to become completely immersed within the magic of Belle’s world and the universe of ‘U’. Belle’s magic extends to the profound with topics unearthed of a darker tone which may not be anticipated within such a fairy tale narrative but emphatically add to the film’s magnetic impact. All of which means that the emotion is ramped up within Belle and accentuated, which will impressively manage to move the audience away from those fairy tale pre-conceptions with touching scenes for which those tissues are definitely advised.

Belle hiding in the virtual world of U
Belle hiding in the virtual world of U
©2021 STUDIO CHIZU

Belle is such a charmingly powerful tale with beautiful aesthetics, special effects and a soundtrack that will pierce the soul with its vocals and poignant songs such as Lend Me Your Voice. This new feature of Academy Award nominated Hosoda is likely to leave a huge impact on audiences irrespective of whether they are familiar with animé as it is a universal tale that speaks to the core of humanity and the power of community whilst embracing the methods that we may use to find our strength and confidence. Belle has that platform to provide confidence to children and teenagers everywhere to find your voice and to have the courage of your own convictions thereby outlining a positive message of hope that should relate to many in their time of need.

 

 

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