Movie Review: Ladyhawke

“I fully expect to meet you at the Pearly Gates, little thief, and don’t you dare disappoint me.”
“I’ll meet you there, Father . . . even if I have to pick the lock.”

I just finished watching Ladyhawke, a 1985 movie starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer. It’s a darling fantasy-adventure movie that takes place in medieval times in the city of Aquila. The story was written by a man named Edward Khmara. I’d love to say that he’s a beautiful writer with a vivid imagination, but truthfully, he followed the same basic storyplot in every fantasy-adventure movie. You have a villain, a hero on a quest and a Beauty for him to fight for. Add to that the story’s conflict: The lovers can never meet in human form because of a curse placed on them by the evil Bishop. During the night, Captain Navarre turns into a wolf and during the day, his love, Isabeau, becomes a hawk. There is a betrayer seeking forgiveness, an evil sidekick to the villain whose position is threatened by the presence of Navarre, and a tangible symbol of it all. In this case, a pair of leather straps that Isabeau throws back at the Bishop in the end. Enter into this mix an Innocent: Phillipe Gaston, a teenage pick-pocket who escapes from the dungeons shortly before his hanging. This main character stole my heart from the beginning with his sense of humor and random comments. One of his first lines in the movie is when he is escaping prison by crawling the a tiny, muddy hole. As he’s struggling he mumbles, “This is not unlike escaping my mother’s womb. God, what a memory.” He continues to help the spell-ridden couple by communicating for them (a lot of which he makes up), keeping them alive from the Bishop’s men and aiding them in the search to end the curse. Some of my favorite quotes from him include:

[After picking someone’s pocket] “I know I promised, Lord, ‘never again’. But I also know that YOU know what a weak-willed person I am.”

[To Captain Navarre, the cursed lover] “Sir, the truth is, I talk to God all the time, and, no offense, but He never mentioned you.”

I was so moved by this boy’s innocence. I do applaud Khmara for creating such a complicated character. How can a young thief fending for himself be so innocent? He’s fun-loving, creative and also sensitive and caring. How can you beat that? Most of all, I love the way he prays. Every situation he was in, he made off-hand remarks to God, full of the humor he uses with everyone else. God must delight in that! Think about it. If you were God would you prefer a pious priests droning requests and adorations at you or a little sinner with a good heart saying, “I told the truth, Lord. How can I learn any moral lessons when you keep confusing me this way?” I know I’d enjoy the latter. I’m sure things like that make God laugh. And since he has to put up with all the evil and pain in the world, it’s probably a lovely respite.

The characters in this movie are very affectionate and open, especially Captain Navarre. He doesn’t play the macho tough-guy, but a mysterious hero who yells, weeps, attacks and apologizes. I especially love the scenes where he embraces little Phillipe. Once when he attacked the boy wrongfully and again in the end, when he is thanking him for his help in breaking the curse. The captain is a man unafraid of real emotion. Men can learn from him!

Likewise, women have an amazing role model in Isabeau. She, also, is honest. When Phillipe first witnesses her transformation he shakingly asks her, “Are you flesh or spirit.” Averting her face, she answers, “I am sorrow.” There is no attempt to be “strong” and prove she isn’t the weak one, but neither does she just lie around in a weepy pity-party. She does her part in their complicated relationship: she listens to her heart, rides to her lover when she feels it stirring and even, in a seeming role-reversal, protects and saves him, when the captain–in wolf form–is being hunted.

So, I will definately recommend this modern-day fairy-tale to anyone interested. My hour and a half was not at all wasted!


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