Satisfaction, Panache, and Paradox in Cyrano

Satisfaction, Panache, and Paradox in Cyrano

***Spoiler Alert: This text comprises spoilers for the movie Cyrano and for the play on which it’s based mostly.***  One thing’s lacking from Joe Wright’s in any other case luxurious musical movie Cyrano. No, I’m not speaking in regards to the nostril.  Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac1 is my favourite play, so you’ll be able

***Spoiler Alert: This text comprises spoilers for the movie Cyrano and for the play on which it’s based mostly.***

 One thing’s lacking from Joe Wright’s in any other case luxurious musical movie Cyrano. No, I’m not speaking in regards to the nostril. 

Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac1 is my favourite play, so you’ll be able to nicely consider that I watched this new model like a hawk, alert to any and all modifications. The change within the nostril was, in fact, not possible to overlook. When you too are accustomed to the unique play, you understand that it was Cyrano’s huge nostril that made him too self-conscious to woo his love, Roxane. Nevertheless, in Wright’s movie, Peter Dinklage performs the lead, and his dwarfism turns into the trait that makes the character hesitant to talk up.

The lacking component I’m speaking about is slightly more durable to identify, except you understand to search for it. It has to do with the truth that this Cyrano doesn’t put on a hat.

It’s a major adjustment for anybody who is aware of the play nicely. However amid all the opposite adjustments on this model—including musical numbers, truncating or reducing speeches, updating the language right here and there—it turns into only one extra change and manages to work tremendous within the context.

The lacking component I’m speaking about is slightly more durable to identify, except you understand to search for it. It has to do with the truth that this Cyrano doesn’t put on a hat.

The white plume on Cyrano’s hat in Rostand’s play isn’t only a style assertion. It symbolizes a mind-set, a complete way of life. That plume is, for him, “one factor with out stain, unspotted from the world, regardless of doom mine personal.” Within the unique French, he calls it his “panache,” and ever because the play premiered in 1897, that phrase has been used to consult with the form of breezy, unflappable confidence that Rostand’s heroic warrior-poet reveals in all issues, besides issues of the center.

This confidence stems from the character’s cussed independence and integrity, his refusal to take part within the incessant flattery and compromise that make up his 17th-century world, even when giving in just a bit would make life infinitely simpler and extra comfy for him. This integrity, for me, is what makes Cyrano most lovely and memorable. It marks him as a timeless hero, standing up for his beliefs with unfailing braveness and wit, even when the price appears impossibly excessive. And this integrity additionally units up the paradox on the coronary heart of the story: Regardless that Cyrano deceives Roxane—writing love letters that one other man will use to win her, in a misguided try and make her pleased—we keep in mind him as a person of honor and fact.

Joe Wright and screenwriter Erica Schmidt don’t eradicate this component fully. We get tantalizing glimpses of Cyrano’s idealism—as an illustration, we see him flip down a domineering nobleman’s supply to develop into his patron and present his work to the suitable folks, as a result of the suitable folks would wish to tinker with that work earlier than presenting it to the general public. And we hear snippets of Cyrano’s well-known “No thanks” speech—a favourite of mine—which within the unique play reads partially:

What would you have got me do?
Search for the patronage of some nice man,
And like a creeping vine on a tall tree
Crawl upward, the place I can’t stand alone?
No thanks! Dedicate, as others do,
Poems to pawnbrokers? Be a buffoon
Within the vile hope of teasing out a smile
On some chilly face? No thanks! Eat a toad
For breakfast each morning? Make my knees
Callous, and domesticate a supple backbone,—
Put on out my stomach grovelling within the mud?
No thanks!

However different examples of this fiery independence are downplayed or minimize altogether. Even the climactic scene from the play, through which we discover that Cyrano has been bodily attacked for satirizing somebody highly effective, is altered in order that he’s affected by different causes. And curiously, as an alternative of creating a last speech about his panache, this Cyrano laments his satisfaction.

Thoughts you, he’s not improper to take action. As Rostand acknowledges within the unique play, panache and satisfaction are two sides of the identical coin. “I’m too proud to be a parasite,” Cyrano explains within the speech I’ve cited. Cyrano’s concern and his satisfaction and his independence are all inextricably certain collectively, his vices the shadow of his virtues. It’s an excellent depiction of the battle in each human coronary heart, as the identical qualities that increase us up in the future can result in our downfall the subsequent.

I don’t suspect Wright and Schmidt of any nefarious motives of their therapy of Cyrano. It’s clear they selected to focus on romance as an alternative of exploring depths of character, and that romance they painting completely superbly, with attractive visuals and luxurious orchestrations and each different device at their disposal enhancing the grandeur and pathos of the love story. And maybe that is in truth why they ended up emphasizing satisfaction over panache—as a result of it was extra related to the romance.

Panache is what retains Rostand’s Cyrano going, what lets his spirit survive and even thrive within the roughest of circumstances, however satisfaction, in the end, is what retains him from the love of his life. It’s not a malicious or a malignant satisfaction—it’s born of his one deep insecurity and his determined need to maintain his dignity in Roxane’s eyes—however nonetheless, as satisfaction will do, it destroys his likelihood for happiness.

In the end, regardless of the lacking white plume and the sometimes jarring modernized language, I preferred this model of Cyrano. I wasn’t certain at first that I’d, however ultimately I couldn’t assist it. What the movie does nicely, it does extremely nicely, creating an environment so richly romantic that it merely sweeps the viewer away. And even that altered ending, although it threw me at first, was satisfying in its personal approach. I’d advocate the movie—however then I’d advocate occurring to learn the play and/or watch one of many earlier movie variations (the 1990 French model is especially good).

In spite of everything, within the 21st century as within the 17th, we’re all tempted typically to toady, to grovel, to compromise—simply the tiniest bit!—with what we all know to be improper. Let’s face it—most of us may use slightly panache.

1All quotations from Cyrano de Bergerac are from the Brian Hooker translation (Bantam Basic Version, 2004).

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