Joe Wright’s romantic musical “Cyrano” brings to screen Erica Schmidt’s stage musical, which was itself adapted from Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play “Cyrano de Bergerac.” Starring Peter Dinklage as Cyrano de Bergerac, who is a fictionalized character based on a real French man, the film beautifully presents the old story with a remarkable sense of modernity. Making use of a very witty and crafty script, brilliant acting performances, and its overall form as a musical, it makes for a heartfelt and entertaining watch.
Somewhere in monarchical France lives young and beautiful Roxanne, accompanied only by her attendant Marie, as Roxanne is an orphan. With their limited wealth running out, Marie keeps suggesting to Roxanne that she marry into wealth, especially with the Duke of Guich, a man only second to the King in position who has been showing much romantic interest in her. But Roxanne is one who believes in high and sweeping love, and she does not want to marry without being in love. She finds the Duke too engrossed in his own vanity and only keeps up with him for slight benefits, like going to watch a play on a particular evening.
As they reach the theatre, a young, newly recruited soldier is mesmerized by Roxanne’s beauty and follows her into the building. As the Duke and his company seat themselves on high ground equal to the level of the stage, Roxanne and the soldier look at each other and fall in love at first sight. When the performance begins, a powerful and charismatic voice starts to feud with the popular actor on stage, using clever and poetic insults to almost drive him away from the pedestal. This voice is soon revealed to be that of Cyrano de Bergerac, a talented writer, poet, and duelist who also happens to suffer from dwarfism. When a member of the Duke’s party tries to insult Cyrano by calling him a freak, he challenges him to a duel and defeats him fair and square.
While returning that night, Duke de Guich advises Roxanne to end her friendship with Cyrano, but she refuses, as the two have been friends since childhood. On the other side, Cyrano goes for dinner with a friend and confides in him his profound and longing love for Roxanne. Despite being endowed with many talents, Cyrano is very conscious of his short stature and unconventional looks, which hold him back from even imagining confessing his love to his friend. The next day, Roxanne asks to meet Cyrano privately, at some hidden spot, and the two meet at a bakery. She tells him about a newly found love that she only discovered in the theatre last night, and Cyrano increasingly starts to hope and believe that it might be about him. But very soon, she reveals her love to be the new soldier, who she has found out to be named Christian de Neuvillette.
As Christian and Cyrano are part of the same army infantry, Roxanne begs Cyrano to befriend the new soldier, protect him, and make him write to her. A heartbroken Cyrano follows suit, and realizes that the young man is very bad at expressing himself with words. Christian, on the other hand, is overjoyed upon learning of Roxanne’s interest in him, and he begs Cyrano to help him out in some way. Cyrano finally suggests a setup where he would write the letters to Roxanne while pretending to be Christian, and Christian would go to drop them off.
Major Spoilers Ahead
What Stops Cyrano From Confessing His True Love?
The setup works to great fruition at first, as all three enjoy the act of expressing love: Cyrano expresses his own love, concealing it under the name of Christian; Roxanne is ecstatic reading the letters and falls madly in love with Christian; and Christian feels himself greatly fortunate to be loved by Roxanne, who writes back to him letters of love. However, a crisis emerges when Roxanne asks him to arrange a meeting between her and Christian. Hearing of this, Christian throws all of Cyrano’s cautions to the wind and goes to meet his lover alone; but he is unable to talk romantically at all, and only stammers “I love you” thrice to a livid Roxanne, who questions the genuineness of the letters.
That night, accompanied by Cyrano, Christian goes in front of Roxanne’s house to apologize. He stands in the shadow in front of his beloved’s balcony, while Cyrano first chooses his words, then speaks and sings, professing love from behind a wall. Meanwhile, Duke de Guich had tried making advances towards Roxanne, but she had managed to keep him at bay. This same night, as Christian shares a kiss with Roxanne and Cyrano is walking away from her house, a priest arrives at her doorstep with a sealed letter from the Duke.
The letter states that if Roxanne wishes to marry the nobleman, she must ask the priest to wait till he arrives later that night, and if she does not wish to marry right away, then he would either way have her by consummating their relationship that night. Roxanne is shocked to bits reading it, and also gives it to Cyrano to read, but then when reporting it to the priest, she cleverly says that the Duke has asked the holy man to secretly and hastily wed her to Christian, who was also present in the room all this while.
When the Duke arrives, the two have already married, and in a vengeful rage, he orders both the men to report to their army duties and sends their entire infantry to the war front. Before leaving, Roxanne tearfully asks Cyrano to make sure that Christian survives, that he stays loyal and that he keeps writing letters to her. The helpless lover commits to promising only the last demand, knowing that it would be in his hands, and he keeps writing letters of love to her from the battlefield. But the situation at war gets worse, and Duke de Guich orders the infantry to be sent to the very frontline of the battle, ensuring a certain death for most of them.
Right before posting their last letter to Roxanne, Christian encourages and asks Cyrano to confess his love to her, for he has realized that she is more in love with his spirit, i.e, Cyrano personified, than his physical appearance. Christian then runs out of formation onto the battlefield alone and is immediately killed by enemy bullets. Cyrano mourns his death and plants the final letter for Roxanne on his corpse. He is shot too, but Cyrano ultimately manages to survive the war.
Cyrano’s character is one who is, sadly, marked more by his physical appearance than his artistic and physical talents. In the original depictions, the man was insecure about his disproportionately big nose and his conventionally ugly face. Dinklage’s character, though, brings a fresh new depth with the man’s physique itself being unconventional, and in the process, brings to discussion the social treatment of dwarfism that today’s world (including the actor himself) is very vocal about. The character, however, also has a sense of immense pride in himself, with regards to his talents in wordplay and dueling. The title character does not shy away from the world at all, he is clear and expressive in every facet except when it comes to admitting his love for Roxanne. It is almost as if, to him Roxanne is a separate world, which he wishes to but cannot want to enter, for he believes that it is his destiny to love his beloved from afar.
At the very core of Cyrano’s character is his pride and ego, of course, which he himself admits at the end. Although, on the surface, he is scared that Roxanne might want to end their friendship when she gets to know of his love for her, deep down, the man is unable to accept the possibility of a failure. In this sense, his pride also arguably undermines Roxanne, for he fails to realize that Roxanne is mature enough to love someone beyond his physical appearance. He is almost on the brink of admitting his love, particularly in the scene where he sings outside Roxanne’s balcony pretending to be Christian, but is pulled back by pride every time. When his final admittance comes, though, it is quite too late.
‘Cyrano’ Ending Explained: Do The Lovers Finally Unite?
Three years after the war, Roxanne now lives a widow’s life at a convent, where she is visited by Cyrano every week. He struggles to live on in poverty and with his wounds from the war. One day, he realizes that he is about to die, as his wound starts to bleed, and decides to tell Roxanne of his love. At the convent, he asks Roxanne to let him read Christian’s final letter. While reading it, Cyrano can hold back no longer, enunciating his own words in front of his lover, and starts to almost recite it. Seeing this, Roxanne exclaims that it was him all along, writing the letters and singing the songs, but he vehemently protests and denies it, till he falls down on the floor, about to die. Roxanne embraces him and confesses that she loves him. Tears roll down her cheeks as they kiss, and she says that she has always loved him . The lovers are only able to unite for a few moments with the kiss as Cyrano’s face grows tense. He then only replies, “And I have always loved my pride,” before passing away.
The central force in the tale has been the unexpressed and hidden love, and the final remorse at having done so by losing oneself to one’s pride. All of this and more have been tremendously played out by Peter Dinklage and also quite enjoyably by Haley Bennett. The film’s musical style is given a fresh look as well, with a song and a minimal dance sequence inside the bakery while the performers are in the act of preparing dough, and another with soldiers in the garrison dancing in the style of sword-fighting. Unlike most of the other elements, the songs and the music have not been restricted to any classical style, which also adds to the great experience. With the coming together of such a class performance and good filmmaking, Wright’s film is a fresh and great take on the classic story of love versus pride.
“Cyrano” is a 2021 Musical Drama film directed by Joe Wright.