I immediately knew I would like ‘The Princess Bride’ when I found out it was directed by Rob Reiner, who also brought the likes of ‘When Harry Met Sally’ and ‘Stand By Me’ to the big screen (he also brilliantly plays Jess’ father in hit sitcom ‘New Girl’). I wasn’t wrong. I’m a sucker for films that feel warm, sweet and thoughtful, and ‘The Princess Bride’ checked all those boxes, even if there were also pirates, rodents of an unusual size, and a pit of despair. Even now, it still somehow manages to classify as a ‘feel good’ movie. An epic fantasy-adventure-comedy, recounting its plot would take a lifetime so. as Inigo Montoya says, ‘there’s too much, let me sum it up’.
A grandfather reads a story to his poorly grandson, stuck at home. The story is ‘The Princess Bride’, a tale of a farm boy, Westley, on a mission to save his love – Buttercup – from being murdered, with the help of ex-outlaws Fezzik, a giant, and Inigo Montoya, an expert swordsman. At its core, ‘The Princess Bride’ is a tale of enduring love and the power of words and stories, which feels apt seeing as the film is based on a book. Despite all the layers, the story never feels convoluted. It’s perfectly constructed as it builds and releases tensions, and leaves you feeling warm and satisfied at the end.
It’s also timeless, so timeless that my little brother, who refuses to watch twentieth century movies or shows didn’t even realise it dates back to 1987. As for myself, I am able to rewatch ‘The Princess Bride’ whenever, no matter what mood I’m in or who I’m with, a testament to its lasting charm. It’s a perfect balance between comedy, drama and romance, and even after laughing at Count Rugen for running away from Inigo’s brandished sword, I still find myself breathless during their duelling scene as Inigo repeats ‘My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die’. The best element of the film however is no doubt the narrative, more specifically the story-within-a-story. Built around a grandfather reading to his grandson, the audience is able to see the story in question unfold, simultaneously watching a strong bond develop between the two. Parallel stories unravel before our eyes: a familial tie strengthening through a common interest, and an adventure of epic proportions. “Isn’t that a wonderful beginning?”, the grandfather says to his grandson, and we feel it too. It is a wonderful beginning – just as the young boy settles down in bed, we also curl up on our sofa, ready for story time and comforted by both narratives equally. The correlation between words and love play a central role in the film for this reason. There’s something hopeful about enduring love and this is something that Westley and Buttercup undoubtedly have. Westley is presumed dead – twice. And while it’s mostly done for laughs and played up (“mostly dead” is “slightly alive” apparently), there’s a gentle kind of heart to this scene. He needs to stay alive for true love, and for Buttercup. We are reminded of an earlier scene when Westley and Buttercup first reunite and he says “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while”. The other iconic lines of the film are “As you wish” and “My name is Inigo Montoya”, which both act as a motif for devotion in their own specific ways. Westley is devoted to Buttercup and fulfils her every demand, while Inigo is devoted to avenging his father’s death – this phrase is a mantra for him, a mantra that gives him strength and emboldens him. There is no denying the power of words once you believe in them.
Beautifully, the movie ends with the grandfather saying “As you wish” to his grandson’s request to read him the story again. And it is with the knowledge of the ninety eight minutes of the movie, that we know he’s really saying “I love you”.
Edited by Juliette Howard, Film Editor