Directed by Joe Wright
Written by Edmond Rostand
Adapted by Erica Schmidt
Unconditional love – a bounty of limitless possibilities: of pain and euphoria. There’s no wonder why it, and its hideous sibling unrequited love, are the rhyme & reason of many a poet and performer. Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac underpins the values of loyalty and forms of expressive love with that of a rather intimate and simplistic tale of appearances and identity. Erica Schmidt adapts the story of a rogueish poet with words that can capture the stars from her musical, who falls for a woman he has known his whole life, fearing she will reject him due to his physical appearance.
Tipped for the Golden Globe following their nomination – Peter Dinklage’s roots in Cyrano span more than the film’s inception – starring in the original musical which Wright bases the film. The character of Cyrano brought many, but explicitly one thing to the English language; panache – something actors have been thanking Rostand for generations now. And this is precisely the effortless level of charm and self-grappling that Dinklage communicates, both visually and through presence. Exceptionally sharp and intuitive, Dinklage undertakes the once long-nosed poet with gritty determination with a profoundly irresistible performance. His connections are tangible with co-stars Ben Mendelsohn, and the effortlessly engaging Haley Bennett as the centrepiece of our lover’s eyes.
Integrity to the stage is respected in measured levels and though an evident piece of cinema with the cinematography – director Joe Wright pays tribute to the origins of Cyrano de Bergerac. Spoken in verse, with caesura breaks, infusing contemporary elements in the manner of performance – almost to the modern street levels of rap battles.
Wright’s direction of the musicality strikes a balance between the sought-after Hollywood reinvention of the old classics and a contemporary meld of spoken word, the duels as equally about sabres as they are words. Time in Westeros has served Dinklage well, an adept stage combatant, Seamus McGarvey’s framework whips around to infuse a sense of momentum within the fight sequences – though not largely required, does imbue proximity and intensity to many scenes – and drastically highlights the costume design.
And though Bennett does much of the lifting with rounded, pristine and powerful vocals; the lyrics – at times – are jarring in their simplicity. Bennett’s presence strikes almost ethereal notes, present but detached from the world around – a compelling performance that channels pain and sincerity as equally as Roxanne’s more immediate temperament. An undoubted representation of stagecraft is within Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran’s costume design, which significantly etches the film’s place as a visual piece of cinema – colour apparent, but muted, almost duty and earthen to emulate the score.
A gloriously grim, and touching example of where the potential powerhouse the score contains is with numbers that play directly into Wright’s crafted experience with soldiers, of battle and the peculiar union it shares with music. Where I Fall, a haunting number stands apart from the slower pace of the more linguistically adept numbers but does a trifle bit more to cut through to the emotional integrity. Where the more traditional musical escapades of our antagonist’s number, What I Deserve, compelled into repetition with Matt Berninger and Carin Berninger (as Carin Besser)’s lyrics.
Where the meat falls from the bones is with the underwritten role of Christian, despite Harrison’s best efforts. Ever the foil to Cyrano’s charm and savvy nature, Christian should possess intense undertones which Kevlin Harrison Jnr. doesn’t capitalise. And rather than a layered character, achieves a minor standing above comedic fodder in the last few moments.
The comedy is self-abasing , its inclusion isn’t used to sully or make light here but rather imbues itself with the lyrical nature of the narrative and character development – Cyrano would be nothing without its sword and shield, that of Dinklage’s razor wit and Bennett’s deflecting deprecation. For fault and folly, Wright’s Cyrano echoes and captures mercilessly and significantly at the hands and words of Dinklage, a swagger of a period piece, and the vocals and attitudes to carry some, though not all of the musical numbers. Comedic agility rampant, Cyrano speaks with a voice of the people, in a universal language, but staggers a few of its words in execution.
Cyrano releases to cinemas across the UK from February 25th