Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so we at Fangirlish are celebrating by rewatching (and reviewing) some of our favorite romantic movies. There are so many good films to choose from, but I finally decided to go with one of my all-time favorites: Ladyhawke. If you haven’t seen it – and 80s soundtracks don’t immediately put you off – it’s well worth a watch!
What’s It About?
Set in medieval France, Ladyhawke is a mixture of romance and fantasy. Isabeau of Anjou (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Etienne of Navarre (Rutger Hauer) fell in love and were cursed by the Bishop of Aquila, who wanted Isabeau for himself. “Always together, eternally apart,” Isabeau is a hawk by day; Navarre is a wolf by night. To break the spell (or perhaps just get revenge), Navarre decides to break into the bishop’s stronghold. To do so, he enlists the help of Phillip Gaston, a thief known as the Mouse (Matthew Broderick).
An Epic Love Story
“Do you know that hawks and wolves mate for life? The Bishop didn’t even leave us that. Not even that.” – Navarre
Ladyhawke is full of action, drama, and a touch of comedy, but at its heart, it’s closer to a fairy tale than any of those genres. If you ask me, Etienne of Navarre, former Captain of the Guard, was Rutger Hauer at his best. I can’t imagine it’s easy to convey the depth of one’s love in a romance movie when the love interest in question spends half their time as a bird. But this romance is more poignant than others I’ve seen where the leads spend almost the entire movie together. But, then, as the Mouse says, “[Isabeau] loves [Navarre] more than life itself. She’s had to.”
“Are you flesh, or are you spirit?” – Mouse
“I am sorrow.” – Isabeau
As one might expect from the fact the movie takes place primarily during the day – and from the title – Isabeau spends a good portion of the movie as a hawk. (When she’s a human, however, she’s played flawlessly, and somewhat ethereally, by Michelle Pfeiffer.) In fact, the fairy tale nature of the story isn’t immediately apparent – unless you’ve read the back of the Blu-ray case, at least. The audience is introduced to the magical goings-on through the eyes of the Mouse, who isn’t remotely interested in getting involved. Of course, he can’t help but be dragged in, very much against his will, at first. As he comes to understand Navarre and Isabeau and the strange enchantment that binds them, however, he cannot help but try to find a way to help them break the curse.
“You have stumbled onto a tragic story, Philippe. And now, whether you like it or not, you are lost in it, like the rest of us.”
If I had to point to one thing that brings down the movie a little, it would have to be the soundtrack. It’s not terrible, but it is very…eighties. It is so very, very 1980s. For most, that won’t be an insurmountable problem, since the soundtrack really isn’t a dominant part of the film. However, if unexpected synthesizers usually send you running for the hills, you should brace yourself a little going in.
Most Memorable Scene
This film is honestly filled with memorable scenes. However, if there’s one that you can reference to any fan of Ladyhawke and they will recognize immediately, it’s this one:
At the break of dawn (and presumably at dusk, as well), as Navarre and Isabeau begin to transform from wolf to man and from woman to hawk, they see each other for a split second. And in that second, they can almost – almost – touch. Only to be torn apart once more.
Is there anything more fairy tale than that?
Did you enjoy Ladyhawke? Let us know in the comments below!