Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Genre Character of the Week: Captain Etienne Navarre

One of the things I’m often asked by one of my friends is to justify why I like dramas and tragedies. From his point of view, escapist fiction and film should be light-hearted as there is already enough misery in the real world. From my point of view I think that scenes of loss and heartbreak can be stunningly beautiful and without their existence the human experience simply becomes flavourless mush.

Case in point: Thinking of how I could match a genre character I liked with sadness, I closed my eyes and tried to think of some of the most heartbreaking things I’ve seen in fantasy films (why fantasy – my last two genre characters were out of horror and Science Fiction), and then it struck me: Captain Etienne Navarre.

Initially coming across as a heartless jerk, openly claiming that he is only using our protagonist to aid his own murderous ends, Navarre eventually changes throughout the film into one of those “Still Waters Run Deep” male romantic leads that I like so much. I first saw Ladyhawke when it came out in theatres, and although I was actually there to see the wisecracking kid from Wargames fight with swords, the love story between the films two romantic leads, Navarre and Isabeau (played wonderfully by Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer) eventually won me over entirely (and as I was a nine-year-old boy at the time, the romance was the thing I was least interested in).

For me the film basically came down to one scene (spoiler warning) as the two leads had been cursed to be “always together, eternally apart,” specifically, he became a wolf at night and she a hawk at dawn, so although they each spent half the day in human form it was never with the other. Anyway, the comic relief of the film attempts to find a way to cheat the curse and the sequence wherein they actually see each other for the first time in year is probably one of the most beautiful/sad film memories from my childhood – and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, I love the fact that a collaboration of cast, crew, production company, local theatre and my mom willing to take me to the theatre could affect me so emotionally.

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