As far as Celtic legends go the one based on Tristan and Isolde is one of the more famous ones. It is based on the tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers (what other type of lovers are there in legends?) who are from opposite sides of the warring countries of Ireland and England. Tristan and Isolde were born during the Dark Ages when England was in a state of chaos with no one leader and a bunch of self-serving pretenders.
Ireland was united and strong under King Donnchadh (David O’Hara – Hotel Rwanda, The Devil’s Own) who had his eye on taking over England. Tristan’s (James Franco – Annapolis, Spider Man) parents were killed during a raid by the Irish when he was a young child. He was taken in by Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell – A Knight’s Tale, Dark City), the leader of the area of Cornwall. Many years later during a battle in Cornwall against the Irish Tristan is thought to be dead and is sent off to sea in a hero’s burial. His body washes up on the Irish shore and is discovered by Isolde (Sophia Myles – Underworld: Evolution, Mansfield Park), the princess daughter of King Donnchadh. Isolde saves Tristan’s life and over the course of his healing process they fall in love.
Realizing that their love can never be Tristan returns to England. King Donnchadh, in a plot to divide the English kingdoms, holds a contest in which the winner gets his daughter’s hand in marriage. Tristan competes with the goal of winning a bride for Lord Marke. He is victorious but his heart is broken when he realizes that Isolde is the prize. Tristan tells Isolde that he will remain true to Lord Marke in order to keep him happy and England united. Unfortunately for the two lovers this proves too difficult.
In opposition to most romantic tales Tristan and Isolde is a tale of heartache, struggle and doesn’t end in that usual Hollywood way. There is an undertone of darkness and sadness running throughout the film. It is very apropos that a tale from a period called the Dark Ages is not a happy one. The difficult choices that friendship, love and family sometimes cause us to make are portrayed in the film.
Director Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) has not only done well with this part of the story but the battle scenes in the film are some of the best I have seen. They are realistic and graphic without being too over-the-top.
The entire cast has been perfectly cast and they all do good jobs with their roles, especially Rufus Sewell, who plays the thankless role of the man that gets in between our two lovers, but still you do not hate him. The chemistry between the two leads is great and they sizzle every time they are on screen together.
Tristan & Isolde is one of those films that not many people saw and there was really no buzz about but is a surprisingly good film.
- Audio Commentary by Executive Producer Jim Lemley and Co-producer Anne Lai
- Audio Commentary by Screenwriter Dean Georgaris
- Love Conquers All: Making of Tristain & Isolde
- Music Video: “We Belong Together” by Gavin DeGraw (2 Versions)
- Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots