One of the great love stories from the medieval courtly
and Isolde" has received many different treatments from medieval poets
such as Gottfried of Strasbourg to the haunting opera by the
nineteenth-century German composer Ricard Wagner. In each of the versions of
the story, there are new and different plot details in this tragic love
In Kevin Reynolds' film adaptation, the most intriguing new
twist from the traditional story is the way in which Tristan and Isolde meet. In
this version, Tristan is given up for dead following a battle in Cornwall and
washes ashore in Ireland in a boat only to be discovered by Isolde. She then
uses her magical herbs to cure him. In Gottfried's medieval tale, the two young
people drink a love potion from a goblet of wine. In this film, the young people
fall instantly in love without any need of an elixir.
In two touching performances, the young lovers are played by
James Franco and Sophia Myles. Their on-screen chemistry is electric, and their
scenes together are filmed effectively by Reynolds in beautiful location
settings. The film also explores themes of medieval chivalry and honor. Rufus
Sewell delivers an excellent performance as King Mark caught in the love
triangle that recalls the famous story of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guineviere.
There are also great action sequences in "Tristan and Isolde," including
battles, tournaments, and medieval siege warfare. But the most memorable scenes
are the intimate moments with Tristan and Isolde. Their fateful meeting and the
unfolding of their relationship make this film worthwhile for audiences both
familiar with the legend and for those being introduced to this timeless love
story for the first time. Celtic Radio gives Kevin Reynold's 2006 Tristan +
Isolde 5 Golden Movie Stars:
Tristan & Isolde is set in
Ireland, in the Dark Ages, after the fall of the
in the 5th century. The scattered
British settlements are in the process of becoming unified under Lord Marke
(Rufus Sewell), who wishes to fortify England against attacks by the Irish king
Donnchadh (David O'Hara).
Donnchadh, meanwhile, discovers this plan and plots a raid against the English
rebels. His troops attack the group and their families. During the raid, Lord
Marke defiantly, and bravely, sacrifices his own right hand to save a young boy,
Tristan, whose parents are murdered in the attack. Feeling compassion for the
young boy whose father loyally supported him, Lord Marke welcomes Tristan into
his home (telling his widowed sister "We're his family now"). Tristan grows to
be a fierce, courageous warrior whose loyalty to Marke is not that of a Knight
to his Lord, but rather a son to his father (when questioned about his "bias"
loyalty to Marke, Tristan defiantly tells a nobleman "Marke pulled me from the
fight when you ran. So you can understand that when I think of Kings, I think of
him. When I think of cowards, I think of you.").
Cornish knight Tristan of Aragon (James Franco) (whose family were murdered
in an Irish raid) launches an attack with a handful of loyal warriors on an
Irish slave caravan: in the battle, he finds himself fighting Morholt,
Donnchadh's champion, leader of his army and to whom Princess Isolde (Sophia
Myles) has been promised in marriage. Though he kills Morholt and Donnchadh's
forces are overrun, Tristan is severely wounded in the fight and believed dead,
though he is in fact only suffering the effects of having been sliced in the
abdomen by Morholt's poisoned sword.
body is put out to sea on a funeral boat which eventually washes up along the
Ireland. He is discovered by Isolde and her maid Bragnae, who administer an
antidote that revives him and then secretly nurse him back to health. Tristan
and Isolde fall in love; however, Isolde does not disclose her real name. After
some time Tristan is forced to flee to
Plotting to defeat Britain, Donnchadh proposes a peace treaty, promising his
daughter Isolde in marriage to the winner of a tournament. Tristan participates
on behalf of his uncle King Marke of Cornwall, unaware that the "prize" Isolde
is the woman he fell in love with in Ireland. He wins the tournament, only to
discover the truth about Isolde and to see her betrothed to Marke.
Although Marke is kind to Isolde, her heart belongs to Tristan, who is torn
between his love for Isolde and his loyalty to Marke, a man whom he has loved as
a father and who saved his life as a child. The couple eventually begin an
affair behind Marke's back, although they often consider ending it for the sake
of their duty to Marke. This affair is discovered by Lord Wictred (Mark Strong),
who conspires with Donnchadh to use their love to overthrow Marke, Wictred
getting Marke's throne in exchange.
In Tristan's final attempt to end the relationship, he and Isolde are caught in
an awkward situation by all of the kings. The kings decide to part ways with
Marke; the alliances are ruined and his wife and son-figure have betrayed him.
Marke is at first furious with the pair of them, but relents after hearing
Isolde explain her history with Tristan and offers them the chance to run away
together. But Tristan (who tells Isolde that if they elope, they will be
remembered for all time as those whose love brought down a kingdom) chooses
instead to stay in England and fight for his king. At the same time, Marke's
nephew and Tristan's old friend Melot (Henry Cavill), angry at his uncle's long
favouring of Tristan and tricked by Wictred's seeming support of him, shows
Wictred an old passage into the Roman foundations of Marke's castle that Tristan
and Isolde used to carry out their affair. Wictred then fatally stabs Melot and
sneaks his army into the castle. Marke and his forces swiftly become pinned down
by Donnchadh's army outside the castle and Wictred's men within.
Tristan sneaks back into the castle via the secret tunnel. On the way, he finds
the dying Melot: the old friends forgive one another before he dies. Tristan
emerges from the tunnel and attacks Wictred's men, allowing Marke's soldiers to
secure the castle, but he is mortally wounded in combat by Wictred, though he
kills Wictred shortly afterwards. Now outnumbered, Tristan, Marke and the
soldiers loyal to him emerge from the castle and present Wictred's severed head
to Donnchadh. Marke urges the British kings standing with the Irish to aid them
in making Britain a single, free nation: inspired by his words, the British
kings and their men attack Donnchadh and his army. As a fierce battle between
the British and Irish erupts, Marke carries a dying Tristan to the river, where
they are met by Isolde. Marke leaves to lead the British to victory, while
Tristan eventually dies in Isolde's arms after uttering his last words of "You
were right. I don't know if life is greater than death. But love was more than
either". Isolde sees to his burial beneath the ashes of the Roman villa where
they had met to be with each other, and plants two willows by the grave, which
grow intertwined; she then disappears from history and is never seen again.
Marke, it is said, defeated the Irish, united Britain, then ruled in peace until
the end of his days.