I watched ‘Cyrano’ last night with no expectations other than a piece of light entertainment and the sure and certain knowledge that it had to be a better movie than Steve Martin’s Roxanne. I hadn’t even realised that we were going to be watching a musical and, for a moment, the terrible spectre of La La Land haunted me and I wondered what I was in for.
Then the movie began and I lost myself in it completely. The acting was first-rate, the settings were stunning, the cinematography magical and, to my surprise, the script and the songs had a huge emotional impact. This was a movie that was beautiful to look at and affecting to listen to but which also gave me room to think about the fantasy world that lovers create for their love to flourish in and how that world is shaped by the story they tell themselves of who they are.
As ever, Peter Dinklage was compelling, he’s a man who can convey a huge range of emotions just by rearranging his face, but the rest of the cast also delivered strong performances.
Take a look at the trailer and stills below to get a feel for what I mean:
All the songs were recorded live and sung by the cast which had the effect of integrating them completely into the storytelling. This also meant that, for me, although the music worked, it wasn’t memorable on its own. Then came a song called ‘Wherever I Fall’, sung by three soldiers as they write letters home on the eve of a suicide mission. The soldiers aren’t part of the main story but that song and their performance is a highlight of the film. I can’t listen to it dry-eyed. Click on the link below to hear is for yourself:
Every movie has a ‘Making Of’ story. The thing that fascinates me about Cyrano’s Making Of story is the number of couples it took to make it happen and the natural disasters that they had to overcome to do it.
It started when Erica Schmidt was commissioned to write and stage a musical version of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’. She dropped all reference to Cyrano’s nose and gave the master swordsman a different self-image problem to stand between him and his pursuit of his childhood friend and true love, Roxanne. She then cast her husband, Peter Dinklage as Cyrano and Haley Bennett as Roxanne. She engaged the brothers Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner to compose the music and husband and wife team Matt Berninger and Carin Berninger to turn Rostand’s long speeches into beautiful lyrics. Director, Joe Wright Haley Bennett’s partner and father of her son, saw the stage play and took it to Sicily to turn it into a beautiful and emotionally powerful movie.
Where do the natural disasters come in? Well, this was one of the movies struggling to get made in the midst of the COVID pandemic that hit Italy so hard. Not enough? Wright filmed the war section of the movie on the slopes of Mount Etna, which had been dormant during 2019 and 2020 but which erupted during filming, spewing lava and spraying cast and crew with ash.
If you’d like to know more about the movie, watch the feature below.