One of the greatest history based films . . .Belle accurately dramatizes a cornerstone in the legal destruction of the indefensible and abhorrent abomination that was (and . . . sadly still is in some parts of the world) slavery.
Belle is an absolute must see . . . for anyone and everyone.
Dido's youth is marked by mixed blessings: on one hand, she is cared about and loved dearly, on the other hand she is frequently reminded of her lower social rank. This changes when she unexpectedly inherits a large sum of money from her deceased father, which puts her in a much higher social position and secures her financial stability.
What makes the movie so remarkable is without doubt the skilful combination and addressing of two most pressing matters: gender and race. As a person of colour and a woman, Dido experiences oppression in almost every aspect of her life. Although she is raised by her uncle and aunt with love and care, she is not allowed to dine with her family when there are visitors. Somehow, she is "too high in rank to dine with the servants, and too low to dine with [her] family" (0:12:30). However, Dido is everything but submissive and passive. She has a sharp tongue and a keen mind, and frequently questions the order of things with bold courage.
This struggle to overcome oppression and objectification is beautifully conveyed by Mbatha-Raw ("Dido"), who is clearly the film's gem (judging also by the several awards and nominations she has received for the role). Another brilliant piece of acting was delivered by Tom Wilkinson ("Lord Mansfield), who perfectly depicts the internal conflicts he is fighting about what is right and what is wrong. However good Mbhatha- Raw and Wilkinson's acting was, there were some minor aspects that still bothered me slightly. Tom Felton, who is cast as the more than unsympathetic suitor of her cousin Elizabeth, delivers a convincing but unsurprising portrayal of another Draco Malfoy type, while Sam Reid ("John Davinier") seems to be either brooding or angry whenever he appears on screen. These, however, are minor is
The superb cinematography definitely plays another key role in making the film authentic. Golden hues are the predominant colours in the film, and give the impression of nobility, while the reappearing musical themes help to create coherence and suspense. The editing, although very conventional and even conservative and stiff at times, helps to support the general mood of the strictly structured 18th century society.
The intelligently written film does mostly succeed at connecting the loose threads of the many plotlines, and the viewer is catapulted back in time thanks to the incredibly convincing costumes and settings, and Bhata-Raw give's the heroine such complexity and fierceness, that it is hard not to be moved by her experiences (both positive and negative) and how she grows as a person. There is an unmistakable spark to the character which truly makes the movie a delight to watch and perhaps, an instant classic.
This biographical motion picture shows Dido Elizabeth Belle trying to find her place in 18th century England as a person of colour as well as fighting for the man she loves and her people. Gugu Mbatha-Raw's performance is outstanding, the costumes, the scenery and the music are nicely done and chosen, as they suggest accuracy and the story presented is extraordinary. However, as already mentioned the movie was marketed as a true story, which although Dido Elizabeth Belle is a historical person I can not agree with.
In general there are very few facts known about Dido and her life, but even most of those were not included in the film and everything that makes it as interesting as it is is not accurate. There is no evidence for Dido's participation in the Zong ship trial, nor any proof at all that she even had the slightest influence on her uncle. In addition, her cousin Elizabeth married many years before Dido eventually became Mr. Davinier's wife and it was also Elizabeth, who was the rich one and not Dido. Therefore, the story presented in the movie might surround a historical subject, but it is definitely not based on a true events. Although, I am convinced that a film that would be closer to what really happened would be just as interesting if not even more.
Nevertheless, I have to admit that watching the film can be a pleasant experience, since its story is fascinating and the performances are well-done. However, only if the viewer does not expect this biopic to actually be a representation of the real Dido Elizabeth Belle and her life or a certain interpretation of what really happened, as it is neither. Overall I strongly believe that this film would have been better of as that, just a film, since this way it would be good, but as a biopic it completely failed.
Adams, Gene. Dido Elizabeth Belle a Black Girl at Kenwood". Camden History Review 12.24. 25 Nov. 2016.
Belle. Dir. Amma Asante. Perf. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson. Fox Searchlight Pictures. 2013.
Byrne, Paula. Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice. New York: Collins, 2014.
Belle is a British production, was released in 2013, is directed by Amma Asante and Misan Sagay wrote the screenplay. It stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Emily Watson. The film can be classified as a female biopic and is based on the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay, the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy British Royal Navy Officer. A painting of Dido and her cousin was used as inspiration for the movie.
The film details the events of Dido's life. She was born in the West-Indies and lived with her mother. The storyline starts after her mother's death, when Dido's father takes custody of her, moving her to his family estate, where she lives with her uncle, the Earl of Mansfield and the Lord Chief Justice, and together with her aunt and her cousin Elizabeth. Dido is loved and accepted by her family, although she is not allowed to dine with them. The two girls are raised as sisters, even though Dido is mixed-race. The film portrays the struggle of Dido's coming-of-age, in a society in which she was unique and an outsider. It gives insight into the family dynamic, and particularly the way Dido was treated by her family. The love for Dido induces her uncle to decide in favour of slaves, in a very important case at court. A central element of the film is the production of a painting of Dido and her cousin. The film concludes with Dido realising she has to follow her heart and decide for herself whom to marry, and finally she finds her position in society.
The filmmakers use the portrait as a basis for their narrative. However, the original painting shows two women on eye-to-eye basis, nevertheless Dido is presented as exotic and wild through the turban and her pose. Instead of using this original portrait and introducing a more critical perspective of the colonial situation portrayed, the filmmakers adjusted the portrait to fit the plot.
The "revitalisation" of the picture is reached through spectacular costumes and make-up as well as typical British scenery, which suggests this is a heritage film. However, the plot would lend itself more towards a postcolonial movie.
In conclusion, I would argue that Belle is a well-made film. The mise-en-scene elements in particular, such as bright costumes and appropriate lightning, breathed life into the portrait, but I would ultimately have preferred a more critical perspective.