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Triumph of Love, The
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Chamber piece"
4 stars

The Italian-UK co-production Triumph of Love is a romantic trifle; an adaptation of a 300 year old French farce about a cross-dressing princess.

The Princess (Mira Sorvino) seeks to atone for her parents’ wickedness in seizing the throne and casting out the rightful heir when he was a baby. Agis (Jay Rodan) is now a young man, raised by his philosopher uncle Hermocrates (Ben Kingsley) and scientist aunt Leontine (Fiona Shaw) to hate the Princess, mistrust all women and disparage romance. When the Princess first spies Agis, she is hopelessly smitten. In male disguise, she infiltrates Hermocractes’ estate and sets about disarming all who live there to win Agis’ heart.

Director Clare Peploe adapted Marivaux’s play Il Trionfo dell'amore with her husband, Bernardo Bertolucci (who also produced), and Marilyn Goldin. They worked from Martin Crimp’s prior English translation. The play was first performed in 1732, and the film boasts sumptuous period costumes (by Metka Kosak) and design (by Ben van Os). Most of the action was shot in the gardens of a Tuscan villa.

Peploe has pared back the play so that the plot’s complications mount quickly and steadily. Marivaux’s theme is love and its attendant insanity. All the learning in the world is not enough to understand human nature, unless you have experienced love. Equally, one must always maintain a balance between passion and logic, emotion and rational thought.

The Princess continually switches between contrasting masculine (Phocion) and feminine (Aspasie) characters, depending on whom she is trying to seduce or inveigle. It’s a plum role for an actress. Mira Sorvino, who adopts a neutral English accent, has now racked up an impressive list of credits in a dizzying array of genres (The Replacement Killers, Summer of Sam, Mighty Aphrodite, Relic, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion). She has a lot of fun playing a man here, but also brings a giddy delight to the love-struck Aspasia, swooning over her Agis.

Kingsley and Shaw (freed from her restrictive role as Aunt Dursley in the Harry Potter movies) provide especially fine support as the middle-aged logicians who have until now denied themselves love, but whose defences crumble as soon as the Princess flatters their vanity.

Peploe wants to explore the clash of theatre and film, past and present. We catch glimpses of a contemporary theatre audience seated in the grounds watching the action unfold. Cinematographer Fabio Cianchetti shot Triumph of Love in Super 16 mm to enlarge the characters’ emotions and give it a modern feel. There are also disorienting jump cuts during intimate conversations between characters. These effects are more distracting than profound, since we don’t need to be reminded that we’re watching an old play through 21st century eyes.

Jason Osborn’s classical score is a treat, with chamber pieces inspired by the music of Jean-Pierre Rameau, a peer of Marivaux. A further anachronism in the film is the addition of electric guitar from Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Surprisingly, it adds a touch of exuberance to the proceedings. As does the last appearance of the actors, out of costume, during the joyous musical finale. Triumph of Love is frivolous but satisfying.

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originally posted: 07/24/02 13:07:13
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User Comments

4/26/02 Heather Great actting, will be popular with the arthouse/Shakespeare in Love crowd 4 stars
4/22/02 Rock Climber Mira Sorvino and Ben Kingsely provide great acti; good story, but a bit stodgy 4 stars
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  19-Apr-2002 (PG-13)



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