Rigorous adventures; a quest of love; princes and princesses- all integrated together in a story called The Princess Bride. This fantasy film was based off a book written in 1973 by William Goldman. Directed by Rob Reiner, this film of true love was released on September 25th 1987. This movie can be considered a fantasy text due to the various archetypal characters; numerous predictable elements with outrageous surprising twists; exaggerated, magical settings and names, as well as several humorous scenes as well.
Archetypal characters include stereotypical people that universal expectations would assume of in a romantic fantasy film, for example Westley – the archetypal [attractive] hero, Buttercup – the archetypal Princess. There are also the sidekicks which include Inigo Montoya who is the ‘knight’, but in this context is a fencer; and Fezzik – who is the archetypal grunt. The realistic archetypes found in parallel narratives are the Grandpa and the Grandson. The names of the characters in the story are also very hyperbolic and ridiculous – those of which you would expect to find in a fantastical story, for example ‘Humperdinck’, and ‘Fezzik’.
Archetypal villains include Humperdinck who wants Buttercup to marry him by force, and Vizzini – a Sicilian who is short in stature, and short in temper. The characters all travel through rigorous adventures, and overcome several obstacles. The plot of The Princess Bride corresponds with the idea of a quest, and is fairly predictable and cliched since the movie was made several decades ago and the modern generation is used to the plot style that The Princess Bride offers. This movie is set in medieval times, because some settings are located within castles, and there are princes and princesses.
Pathetic fallacy is often used in the movie to symbolize the characters’ emotions. An example of the use of pathetic fallacy is during the scene of the swordfight between Inigo Montoya and Westley. Just before the swordfight begins the two have a discussion about their sad history- like when Inigo talks about a six-fingered man killing his father. The sky is fairly dull and dark with a faint sunset to illuminate the scene. This background weather complements the sad tone of the dialogue between each character.
Dialogue also gives Buttercup a realization of who the Man in Black really was, when he rolled down the hill and shouted ‘AS… YOU… WISH”, which is repeatedly used by Westley in the dialogue. This is also an example of repetitive dialogue – which we then associate with the character like how Vizzini (the Sicilian) always said “INCONCEIVABLE! ” An example of this is at the beginning of the sword fighting scene when Vizzini cuts the rope on the Man in Black after scaling the Cliffs of Insanity. He saw that the Man in Black didn’t fall and muttered “HE DIDN’T FALL? INCONCEIVABLE!
” Two key scenes studied within the movie is the scene of the Fire Swamp- which is where Westley and Buttercup travel to and encounter several obstacles; and the sword-fighting scene between Inigo Montoya and Westley. The sword-fighting scene occurs at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity- which names already suggests a fantastical theme. In the sword-fighting scene the sad, melancholic music accompanies the pathetic fallacy to depict the sad tone in the dialogue before the swordfight, and suddenly the music intensified when they picked up their swords and began fighting.
There is also dramatic, orchestral non-diegetic music for added tension and suspense. In the dialogue before the fight Inigo Montoya also references to his father, and repeatedly says the phrase “you killed my father, prepare to die”, which he continually says when fighting the six-fingered man. Classical flamenco styled guitar accompanies the background music of the fight, which also suggests the Spanish background of Inigo Montoya. The costumes were medieval type, which also helped us establish the time period this was set in.
Close-up camera shots are used to show the characters’ emotions, and while fighting the camera rapidly cuts sharply between close-ups and a medium/long shot of them fighting. This cutting between shots begins in the conversation before the swordfight, and suddenly the cuts quickens to show the change in pace and intensity. In the fire swamp scene, the music matches the dramatic parts, like several sudden high notes. This is all non-diegetic sound.
There is a distinct difference between the high notes and the bass notes, and a short moment of silence before dramatic and intense parts for mysteriousness. The fire swamp is located in a dark forest – Westley and Buttercup are completely surrounded with trees. A high angle and long shot is used to show their vulnerability and make the two seem small at the beginning of the swamp. Again, close-ups are used to portray character emotions and more long shots are used to make it feel as if they are being watched.
The dialogue juxtaposes between Westley’s calmness and Buttercup’s fear, for example when Buttercup exposes her fear by saying “We’ll never succeed, we may as well die here. ” Westley attemps to calm Buttercup and is quick to respond by replying “No, no. We already have succeeded. I mean, what are the three terrors of the Fire Swamp? One, the flame spurt – no problem. There’s a popping sound preceding each; we can avoid that. Two, the lightning sand, which you were clever enough to discover what that looks like, so in the future we can avoid that too.
” This shows that Westley is trying to be an optimistic and comforting prince. As they near the end of the swamp the setting changes from a dark, melancholic forest to a brighter and lighter tone. To combine all these features- the thoroughly thought film techniques, adventurous medieval themes, a well-spoken romantic and heroic dialogue and strangely wonderful archetypal characters like the princess Buttercup and prince/hero Westley, make it no surprise that the Princess Bride was such a successful movie which appealed to the audience of the late 1980s.