Let me Tell you a Story
“The Princess Bride” (dir. Rob Reiner 1987) is a cult classic which uses the classic bookending of a narrator telling the story. What draws interest is the unimaginable success of this film, which at its roots is just a grandfather telling his grandson a story. What I want to explore within this post is what makes this film so universally enjoyable.
A Bit about the Narrative
“The Princess Bride” induces the audience to be drawn into the world of fairy tales, exactly as the grandson is within the film.
This is also adapted from a book of the same title and is similar in both its events and dialogue. As in the book, the world of the film aims to find engagement between the audience and the characters.
“The Princess Bride” was filmed in a time when “computerized models and computer graphics technicians” (Corrigan and White 69) where used to create realism within the mise-en-scène. However, Reiner used both a constructed set as well as location to set the scene.
These choices in setting were not to promote realism and recognition, but to bring life to an entirely make-believe world. The presence of the Rats of Unusual Size:
and the Shrieking Eels:
are present within the world of the film instead of being computer generated to add depth to the fairytale. This creates a more visceral viewing experience but is also an obvious theatrical feature. It portrays a filmic reality which is clear in its constructed nature and fantasy.
Dialogue and performance play a huge role in the success of this film.
The dialogue is full of one-liners which add humour and likeability to the characters. What makes the dialogue within “The Princess Bride” so original is its contrast between the realism of the narrator and his grandson, which grounds the outlandish fairytale narrative being told.
And the whimsical nature of dialogue in the fairytale which provides a fantastical, humorous, ridiculous quality to the film.
Along with this, the performance of each individual character reveals the fairytale, surreal qualities of the story. This is especially seen in the three kidnappers, the giant, the Spaniard and the conniving (but small) Sicilian and the fact that there is a man named ‘Humperdink’. This film is built upon fairytale stereotypes brought to life as both over-the-top and outlandish as the fantasy world they are derived from.
In equal measure, the realistic performance of the grandfather/grandson relationship once again provides grounding and contrast to the novel being portrayed in the film.
The Art of the Story
“The Princess Bride” draws attention to the ridiculousness and artifice within the fairytale realm, but also engages us by speaking to the child-like love of story-telling within most audiences. It’s grounding in reality and the knowledge of its construction allows us to be swept away in the imagination and excitement of fairytale adventure.
bospices. Movie vs Book vs Fairytales: A Comparative Analysis of The Princess Bride. 29 June 2011. online. 27 April 2015. <https://teamredundancyteam.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/movie-vs-book-vs-fairytales/. >.
Corrigan, Timothy and Patricia White. The Film Experience: An Introduction. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s., 2012.
The Princess Bride. Dir. Rob Reiner. Perf. Cary Elwes, Robin Wright and Mandy Patinkin. 1987. Film.