Cyrano De Bergerac(1950) — Part 1
Poet, swordfighter, and soldier Cyrano is in love with his cousin Roxane, who in turn loves Christian. Christian is infatuated with Roxane but he doesn’t have the right words to win her over. Cyrano offers to help Christian by offering the golden gift of words and then a tragedy strikes. While the plot of the film seems simple, what brought the film close to my heart was the various emotional layers that kept peeling themselves at various points in the film.
We are introduced to Cyrano as a braggart who loves mocking pseudo sentimental performances. Even after multiple caveats, Montfleury persists until we see Cyrano threatening him with a knife. Montfleury vanishes and we see Cyrano has triumphed in achieving his objective. However, as the real reason for Cyrano’s hate toward Montfleury becomes known, we come to know the real Cyrano — the one that has a heart full of love for his cousin, Roxane, and at the same time is despondent because he knows his love will never be returned because of his bulbous nose. However, despite feeling despondent, Cyrano still feels hopeful for the future, and this is at the heart of what makes Cyrano such a wonderful watch. We see Cyrano persisting for love in the face of all odds while bringing his poetry to the rescue to hide his sadness.
“Sighs and languishes, making sheep’s eyes out of his great frog’s face./ I hate him ever since one day he dared smile upon…”
I delighted in seeing the fierceness with which Cyrano directs his love toward Roxane. The love that comes with being possessive of someone without them knowing about it is at once inspirational and tragic. The acting prowess of José Ferrer shines through in depicting that love.
As someone who loves literature, I was constantly awed by Cyrano’s diction eloquence, and levity:
“For example, thus…
I, sir, if that great nose were mine,
I would have amputated it on the spot.
How do you drink with such a nose.
You must have had a cup made especially.
Cyrano weaves humor and his playful wit skilfully while in a swordfight with Comte de Guiche. Here he turns the criticism directed at him into some lighthearted humor which allows him to cope with it, and even nullify the criticism. Time and again, we see humor popping up in the film, and while the different characters deal with sadnesses of their own, they also understand the importance of levity and masterfully weave it into their performances.
There is also something to be said about Cyrano’s fearlessness. Whether it be fearlessness in defending his pastry cook friend Ragueneau, or the fearlessness in his love for Roxane, we come face to face with a human who has his mind unencumbered from the burdens of any kind. The only burden that exists is in the heart, and this makes for a heartbreaking watch. A heart that wants to give all the love it can possibly give, and yet knows that it cannot receive any love, what does that heart do? In Cyrano’s case, it just goes on giving.
We are introduced to Christian in the conversation between Cyrano and Roxane, when Roxane tells Cyrano about being in love with Christian. Cyrano conceals his dismay and agrees to defend Christian at Roxane’s request. What does it mean to keep on loving someone when they tell you that they are in love with someone else? Does it mean to stop loving them, like flipping a switch inside you? To keep Roxane happy, Cyrano hides his love from her and agrees to her request. A truer love never existed, and to see it play out on the screen so effortlessly is indeed a treat to watch.
Cyrano quickly realizes that Christian is too inept with words to woo Roxane, and agrees to help him, in the process composing Christian’s love letters to Roxane. We see Cyrano’s poetry shine through as he helps Christian compose letter after letter pouring with his love for Roxane.
“As the tender sapling thirsts for rain/as the eagle seeks the sky/as the wave hurtles toward the shore/my heart yearns for you.”