#foreignplanetfilm is a feature in which we get people to tell us which film they’d take with them if they had to leave earth today and go to a brand new planet empty of all our cinema. Would they choose something to comfort themselves or would they choose something to help whatever may live or come to live in this foreign planet?
The Princess Bride – 1987
Director: Rob Reiner
Writer: William Goldman (Book & Screenplay)
Starring: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn
My sister always says that, nowadays, we are “too smart an audience”; in other words, filmmakers have to work awfully hard to surprise or enthral us since we’ve pretty much seen it all. It’s a rare film that makes me gasp in shock, and it’s been many a year since I’ve thought – always in a Valley girl accent, for some reason – “I so did not see that coming!”. Ten minutes in and I usually know where a story’s going. Admittedly, this may have something to do with the fact that Hollywood seems to have ran out of ideas and have now settled for pillaging every book, musical or play ever produced and simply adapting it – shout out to Les Mis for hitting the trifecta. (NB: I am a huge fan of Les Mis. That was not a dig). Understandably, some of my more recent favourites are so deemed because they are unexpected, unique, and ubiquitous (actually the opposite of ‘ubiquitous’, it just sounded better with that tacked on, alliteration and all).
Some of the films that make my #foreignplanetfilm shortlist do so because they managed to entertain me when I was all but resigned to a 3D-blockbuster-sequel-in-the-works cinematic future: I’m talking the likes of American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street – two films that have restored my faith in Hollywood and have me très excited about film in 2014 – and it’s easy to understand why I’d want either one with me on a foreign planet. Understand first of all how painful a decision this is for me. It is Sophie’s Choice on a universal, galactic scale; it’s God ordering Noah to build an ark, and then telling him he has to pick one child that gets to come with him to the new world.
But, alas, I have made my choice and it’s one that is both selfish and for the greater good, I think. If I had one film to take with me to a foreign planet, I’d go back to basics, to what made me fall in love with film in the first place: The Princess Bride. It is the first film I remember watching through then rewinding straight back to the beginning to watch again. And again. And again.
Now, before you jump down my throat, yes, I know, The Princess Bride was a novel first, but I didn’t know that when I first watched it (I also didn’t know how to read very well, I don’t think): I have, of course, since read the book. It’s about a girl, Buttercup, who falls in love with her farm boy, Westley. When Wes is believed to be dead, killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts, Buttercup resigns herself to marriage with Prince Humperdinck (you have got to love these names) of Florin. But before the wedding, Buttercup is kidnapped by outlaws; the Sicilian criminal genius Vizzini; the Spanish master fencer Inigo Montoya (“you killed my father, prepare to die”) seeking revenge for the aforementioned murder; and gentle giant Fezzik. It’s a race against time – and each other – as Prince Humperdinck and a mysterious Man in Black (spoiler alert: the not-so-dead Westley) rush to rescue Buttercup. Hijinks ensue.
What I love most about The Princess Bride is that each viewing is a different experience: from year to year, I find new things to love, or revel in humour that I hadn’t been able to understand, or a concept that I could only fully appreciate at this age or that time. The Princess Bride seems to grow with me, to change with me. Long before I discovered the Hogwarts houses, Westley epitomized each quality they represented; brave against the still-terrifying Rodents of Unusual Size; cunning and wise in his trickery of Vizzini; and through it all, loyal to his Buttercup. (He also happens to be a very good finder).
So, before you think I’ve decided to segue into a Potter discussion (always fun), my point is: I always credit Harry and co. for my sense of morality, for the value I put on my friendships, for my character but, looking back; The Princess Bride taught me all those things and they resonated with me, influenced me, even when I couldn’t identify what exactly touched and changed me so. Maybe it would do the same for generation upon generation on this new, foreign planet.
It’s also bloody hilarious. Endlessly quotable. And just plain old pull-at-your-heart-strings awesome.
A foreign planet with only one film? Scary.
Any planet without The Princess Bride? “Inconceivable!”
Sonia Muhwezi is the Deputy Editor of FILM, THEATRE & TELEVISION at PTL. She recently graduated from Brighton University, where she studied English Language and Lit. She hopes to go into Publishing. In other Sonia related info, it’s worth mentioning that she can turn any conversation into a game of Six Degrees to Harry Potter and is a Beyoncé stan.
(Image sourced from: www.amazon.co.uk)
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