Cyrano de Bergerac, a play originally written by French dramatist, Edmond Rostand, in 1897 was released as a movie starring Peter Dinklage in February 2022. I am currently OBSESSED with this movie. Unlike the original play, the physical trait the main character, Cyrano, is self-conscious about is height instead of a large nose.
Peter Dinklage, best known for his role as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, has dwarfism, which brings a dynamic edge to the movie. Cyrano’s insecurity over his height reflects the way society reacts to him and opens the larger question of society’s unacceptance of characteristics in people that do not conform with the overall perception of beauty standards. Not just beauty standards, society has trouble accepting those different in any way – sexuality, gender, race, thought process. Anything different than what is considered “the norm” is judged and often ridiculed, as is the case with Cyrano’s height in the movie.
A musical, the movie introduces Cyrano with an exhilarating scene in which, during a duel, Cyrano bests his opponent in wordplay as well as swordplay. Dinklage’s wit, charisma, and intelligence shines through with the song of this scene, “When I Was Born.”
Delivered in a spoken rap battle style, it kills with lines such as, “Don’t be so tough on God, everybody makes mistakes,” and “Yes, what you’ve heard is true, I am not a rumor. I’m living proof that God has a sick sense of humor.” It’s angry, brilliant, and beautiful – and it perfectly introduces Cyrano’s dueling prideful and self-deprecating sides.
This juxtaposition in his personality carries through the entire movie. He is praised for his swordsmanship and his poetry. He is a highly revered and respected soldier, but he still feels like he does not deserve the love of Roxanne due to his height. Instead of telling her of his feelings, he lends his words to Christian, the man Roxanne believes she has fallen in love at first sight with, in the form of exquisitely written love letters.
“My words go to waste unless spoken aloud. I will make you eloquent, while you make me handsome.”cyrano
The language, poetry, and heart in this movie is what gets me. Love letters are a lost art, as is wordplay. Roxanne believes these letters are coming from Christian and, while she is falling more in love with him, Cyrano knows that it’s his words, his wit, and his soul that she is truly falling in love with. The longing is palpable and something that hits the heart hard.
“Every Letter” is a love song to the written word, so it is no surprise that it is one of my favorites.
“You light up desire just by describing it
I read to myself until I go blind
Your words all around me all through the night
I can’t resist and I don’t want to fight.”Roxanne
The twisting of words reminds me of why I love classics like Shakespeare and Jane Austen. I feel this is a similarity Roxanne and I share. When Roxanne finally speaks to Christian in person, she is aggravated that he doesn’t engage in wordplay with her. He can’t deliver poetry the way his letters do.
“I Need More,” sung by Roxanne, voices her exasperation:
“Turn me to water like your letters do
Make me not know whether to laugh or cry
I need more”roxanne
This is where the frustration with the story begins. Cyrano is amused by Christian’s inability to satisfy Roxanne’s need for words, he knows it is something she needs, but he still refuses to confess that he is the voice behind the letters. He doesn’t trust her ability love him despite his appearance. Does he truly love her if he doesn’t believe she is capable of loving beneath the surface? He is told my multiple people not to doubt her, but he has too much pride and fear of being hurt to cross that line.
Roxanne asks him, believing he is Christian, “What are you so afraid of losing?”
He answers honestly, “I might lose everything if I lose the pain.”
He might lose the illusion of love if he takes a chance and tells her he’s the one writing the letters. He would rather keep the pain of helping her fall in love with someone else than lose her friendship and the possibility of her love. If he doesn’t tell her, he can always dream of the possibility and that dream is what he is grasping onto.
It’s a stunning movie and an adaption of the play that I believe is on par with, if not better than, the original. The songs, the poetry, simultaneously break your heart while causing it to soar. To say I recommend this movie is an understatement. It proves that everyone has an insecurity that they worry will hinder their acceptance by society and it further shows that society should work better to accept that everyone is different and, if we are all different, is there really a norm to hold everyone to?