Idyllic Redemption: Shadows of the Kingdom in Beauty and the Beast
Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, skillfully directed by Bill Condon, create a phenomenal cinematic experience for all audiences in the art form that is the new release “Beauty and the Beast.” The perfection of the art form and the finesse of the film allows the audience to explore the admirable content that Disney brought to life.
Humanity is depraved, broken, fallen, and too often encompassed in that which is destructive to the soul. The common person’s love of fairytales leads to a truth that is generally overlooked: we adore the idea of redemption.
We love to see it ceaselessly. It is as if we are children, we ask for it again and again, just as Chesterton expresses in Orthodoxy: “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again;’ and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead.” Chesterton uses the illustration to convey the glory found in monotony, but in our incessant obsession with redemption, we find something else of the Christian life: we were made to delight in a world set right.
Just as in this world we know Aslan by another name, so too in other realms of magic, we see Jesus in the goodness and utter unspeakable purity that emanates from stories like Beauty and the Beast, especially when fleshed out in high-quality films.
Thus, there must be something of Jesus to be found in “Beauty and the Beast.” We see him in the glorious landscapes where Belle serenades, “There must be more than this provincial life.” We see him as the Beast releases Belle to go home and save her father, a blatant testament to the sincere redemption of the Beast. We are further convinced of this transformation as the Beast mourns Belle’s departure, having realized she is a woman of radical dignity and well worth having in his company. Later, the Beast even spares Gaston. There is Jesus in the innate value the Beast learns to recognize in each and every person.
Perhaps most of all, we see Jesus in the simple, heartwarming humor that the two main characters share as they get to know one another. They learn to laugh at each other and at themselves. It begins with a snowball thrown in jest by Belle; of course, the Beast proceeds to nail Belle with a snowball and knock her to the ground. Slowly, the Beast learns a gentleness even in his beastliness, but even that is about as messy as the human life itself.
Like Chesterton’s final line in Orthodoxy, “There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.” The small moments of pure, innocent happiness that are sprinkled throughout the film give us perhaps just the tiniest glimpse into that mirth.
Ultimately, we see Jesus in the magic that saturates the entire film. Creative genius drips like liquid gold in each new moment, bringing the audience deeper and deeper into the “tale as old as time.”