The story of Tristan and Isolde was first told in the 12th century by an unknown author, and has spawned several versions down through the ages, some of which are unrealistic and open to ridicule. The account that is given in this 2006 film is more plausible and holds appeal for modern moviegoers who carefully critique the movies on which they spend their time and money.
Penned centuries before Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the tale of Tristan and Isolde was a medieval household name for many years among romanticists, although the two love stories have few similarities.
The current film version stars James Franco as Tristan and English actress Sophia Myles as Isolde. Lord Marke, the most empathetic character in the film is played by another English actor, Rufus Sewell. It is unfortunate that James Franco appeared to be miscast for the role of Tristan as he lacked charisma, acting ability, and lithe movement.
In the fifth century, England and Ireland were at war and Tristan, an Englishman, killed the Irish leader Morholt, but not before Morholt had plunged his poisonous sword into Tristan. Thinking he was dead, his fellow warriors sent his bier out into the deep where he landed on Irish ground. He was rescued by Isolde and her maid Bragnae and brought back to health. During his recuperation, Tristan and Isolde fell in love although Tristan felt compelled to return to England where his countrymen were overjoyed that he was alive.
Lorde Marke of Cornwall, who aspired to become King over all the peoples of Britain, early on had taken the child Tristan into his home when his parents were killed in a previous skirmish with the Irish. Lord Marke looked on Tristan as his son. A famed swordsman, Tristan was chosen to represent Lord Marke in a fencing battle with the prize being the hand of the Irish king’s daughter. The gesture was intended to make peace between the two warring nations.
Tristan was unaware that Isolde was the Irish king’s daughter as she did not give him her real name when she brought him back to health during his recuperation. Of course, Tristan won the fencing battle, only to be devastated that Isolde, the woman he loved, would marry Lord Marke.
After Lord Marke and Isolde married, Tristan and Isolde managed to have secret trysts without the knowledge of her husband. Throughout these events, Lord Marke evokes the sympathy of the viewer because of his integrity and authenticity. The lovers do not elicit compassion for their adulterous assignations.
It would appear that there could be no happy ending to this triangle. Common decency will not allow evil to triumph. Although everyone loves a lover, certain standards must be kept in order for onlookers to cheer them on. You must see the film Tristan and Isolde to see how this complicated affair is resolved.
Tristan and Isolde (2006)