At our last cryptopolis meeting, the talk turned to movies, good and bad. Patrick pointed out that, “No one sets out to make a bad movie.” It’s just, there’s a series of decisions along the way and one thing leads to another, and you get…Tristan and Isolde.

This is one of the classic love stories of the ages. It parallels the most famous love triangle of all, Arthur, Guenevere, and Lancelot. An opera was made of this tale, for Pete’s sake. So naturally it would make a good movie. I watched all the way through. The two young lovers were callow and uninteresting, the plot muddy and unbelievable, the characters indistinguishable.  Ho-hum.

Until Rufus Sewell, as King Mark, confronts Tristan after the truth comes out about his betrayal. And in that one speech, one speech, the movie became great. The movie acquired a depth that it lacked when it was just about Tristan and Isolde; instead of a bit player in their romance, Mark became the focus of the camera and the story. It’s not just that he shouts, either. The words he shouts are the right words, the truthful words. You can imagine the real King Mark a thousand years ago or whatever, shouting those words.

At that moment, Tristan and Isolde was a bad movie with a good movie inside it struggling to get out. Someone cared enough to make a good movie, but a series of decisions happened along the way.


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