RFF16: Cyrano

Joe Wright reinvents a classic starring a magnificent Peter Dinklage

Every big-screen fan knows that musical is a risky genre: it may be the best choice in a director’s career or the one he will regret for the rest of his days. This because, having good music is essential, but it’s not enough: to make a good musical you need a solid screenplay, good actors who sing as well as they act, a director skilled in fitting the music into the scenes and a great attention to the details.

If then the musical in question is based on Cyrano De Bergerac… good luck to that fearless filmmaker. Even if Joe Wright needs no introductions (his filmography includes Pride & Prejudice, Darkest Hour and an unforgettable episode of Black Mirror) and he decided to play the odds with Cyrano, making many brave choices: casting his wife Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, The Girl In The Train) and Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones, I Care A Lot) for the main roles, choosing theater director and Dinklage’s wife, Erica Schmidt, as his screenwriter and filming in Italy in the middle of the pandemic. 

Also, the film is based on Schmidt’s theatrical adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s original work: her version made its debut in 2018 at Terris Theatre, Connecticut, starring Dinklage and Bennett. 

The whole film project sounds like “family thing” but… guess what? You’re going to see the best musical of the decade.

Premise: these “fab four” of cinema know their job very well and know each other very well. It looks like they want to send a clear message to the audience: Cyrano is affected by a soul condition that has nothing to do with his nose e, if in this case it’s Dinklage’s stature that serves the same purpose, it could be anything else. For those who are not familiar with the 1897’s original play by Rostand, Cyrano is a cadet in the French Army and a man with the gift of poetry, who can’t reveal his love for her distant cousin Roxanne, because he’s very insecure of his physical appearance. While he keeps this secret, Roxanne falls in love with a new recruit, Christian de Neuvillette, with no writing or oratorical skills. In Joe Wright’s version, Roxanne is Cyrano’s best friend to whom she tells about her love for Neuvillette (played by a great Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Cyrano will help Neuvillette to win her heart even if that means bringing his secret to the grave.

Cyrano – Haley Bennett and Peter Dinklage. Credits: MGM/Eagle Pictures

Joe Wright’s Cyrano is splendid in every possible way: Dinklage and Bennett have portrayed the same characters in Schmidt’s play, so their chemistry on the screen is perfect,  the screenplay is solid and there’s balance between music and dialogues, so the scenes are never boring. There’s space for farce, but not as much as in the original which is a good thing: this story highlights love and romance, but there’s action and moments of pure poetry that will break your heart. Wright turns training camps into ballrooms, where soldiers dance and sing to unforgettable pop tunes, written by Aaron and Bryce Dessner from The National; the real setting is not France but Noto and Mount Etna (Sicily), the stunning costumes, are by Italian designer Massimo Cantini Parrini.

Cyrano is a real masterpiece that was worth the risk: every element falls into place and Dinklage’s performance is out of this planet. The whole production deserves more than one Oscar nomination.

If you happen to visit Rome Film Festival, you can see Cyrano before it’s released worldwide, between December 2021 and January 2022.


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