Compared to past adaptations of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” Joe Wright’s stage-to-screen version is a standout for its sensational musical numbers and the fact that it is not quite on the nose like past variations.
Before coming to the big screen, Peter Dinklage and Haley Bennet, who play Cyrano de Bergerac and Roxane, starred in the off-Broadway Goodspeed Musicals production of Cyrano which ran in New York in late 2019.
The love triangle between Roxanne, Cyrano, and Christian, is timeless and therefore can be easily adapted by someone new every few decades. This adaptation is well to be remembered as one of the better adaptations since José Ferrer took on the titular character in Michael Gordon’s 1950 “Cyrano de Bergerac.”
Cyrano de Bergerac is a renaissance man most notable for his beautiful poetry, quick-wittedness, and his undeniable talent as a swordsman. Peter Dinklage’s Cyrano doesn’t have the obvious large nose like all his predecessors, but instead features his height as his “grotesque disfigurement.”
He is in love with his childhood friend, the beautiful, confident, but slightly vain, Roxanne. He has never admitted his affections towards her, but he convinces himself that she would not want to be with him. However, Cyrano is not the only one with love in their heart for Roxanne.
Roxanne has the interest of a controlling Duke named De Guiche, played by Ben Mendelsohn. He believes he will be the one to have Roxanne, but what he doesn’t know is she has fallen madly in love at first sight with Christian, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr., a new recruit in Cyrano’s garrison.
After secretly meeting with Cyrano, and raising his hopes, Roxanne admits to Cyrano she is in love with Christian but hasn’t met him yet. She has wild ideas of the type of person Christian is and makes Cyrano promise her he will make Christian write love letters to her.
Cyrano, after having a slight altercation with the new recruit before realizing who he is, learns Christian feels the same way about Roxanne. Christian confesses to not knowing how to poetically express himself and feels as though he will only disappoint Roxanne with his letters.
The two agree for Cyrano to help him write the letters, but as Roxanne receives more and more letters, she wants to meet Christian face to face. When the two finally meet up secretly, Christian comes ill-prepared and confuses Roxanne with the lack of poetry she had read so much of in the letters.
War breaks out, and soon the guards, including Christian and Cyrano, are going to be needed on the front lines with De Guiche as the General in charge of their fate. Roxanne manipulates De Guiche into leaving the guards to protect the town, in turn saving Christian from the war lines, but tells De Guiche that he must be brave and go fight. She lies and tells him she loves only him.
Before the Duke leaves off to war, he arranged a priest to meet him at Roxanne’s. However, before he can arrive, she has the priest marry her and Christian instead. Furious that Roxanne slipped through his wealthy fingers, he orders all the guards to the front line that same night.
Christian confronts Cyrano after figuring out that Cyrano has been in love with her the whole time, even risking his life each day to send her a letter. He wants Cyrano to tell Roxanne the truth because she should decide who she is in love with, the beauty or the soul.
Changing the play to a musical helped guide the story along in a way that made it more captivating to watch. You understand the characters more this way, especially Roxanne, who in past adaptations has been the princess in distress type who needs a man to save her.
Using Dinklage’s stature, instead of some flimsy fake Pinocchio nose, gave the story more depth and emotion which really let the audience connect more with the characters than past adaptations. He is emotional, quick, and pretty good with a sword; his past work in “Game of Thrones” probably helped.
Simply put, the stars of this were Bennet and Dinklage because they shined bright and gave a complex and riveting performance as the two main characters. This is not to say the other members of the cast weren’t good, they just didn’t stand out as much.
The sets, makeup, hair, and costumes created an atmosphere that perfectly housed the narrative and made it visually stunning. The audience is transported to the dim candlelight streets of 17th century Paris.
With odes to the original long nose, it’s no wonder why the costume designs have been recognized with a nomination from the Academy Awards this year.
The dreamy cinematography adds a layer of incandescent romance with lots of interesting and visually stunning camera shots. It shows mastery in Wright’s part as the director. With both the magical visual elements and the romantic score, it gave such a life to the film.
“Cyrano” is an excellent, more-modern, and whimsical adaptation of the titular character’s story. Though not the best singer, Dinklage gave a wonderful performance as the wordsmith whose tongue is as sharp as his blade.