I cannot tell you enough how much I love the story of Beauty and the Beast. It was my favorite movie growing up. I loved it so much that I would dress up like Belle in a yellow gown, sing along to the film, and watch it again and again and again on VHS . I felt a kinship to Belle in her love for reading and her heart to see the good in others, even if their good qualities were veiled by a beastly character. When I found out that Disney would be remaking my favorite classic Disney princess film into a live-action movie, my emotional joy matched that of Belle's joy when the Beast shows her the library of her dreams.
I'm sure you've heard that there have been a number of controversial posts and discussions in Christian circles in regards to this new live-action film, namely due to "an exclusively gay moment." I'm sure it will deter discerning parents from allowing their children to watch it, but after viewing it on the night of its theatrical premiere, let me make a hearty recommendation to you: go see it!
After watching the new Beauty and the Beast, I was reminded once again of how this story and tale as old as time depicts the gospel (the ultimate tale as old as time) in the sacrificial love that redeems and transforms the characters, literally transforming them and making them human again... cue the Human Again song. Not only that, but there are glimpses of the coming restoration through Jesus in the way that the characters and the castle are restored and brought back to life after an act of love.
If you've never seen Beauty and the Beast before, the premise of the story is that a vain prince is turned into a beast by an enchantress and can only be changed back by true love. A beautiful woman named Belle ends up at his castle in search of her father, and she might be his last chance to be restored. The only way the Prince can become human again is if he falls in love and is loved in return.
I could share specifics about what makes this new live-action film worth seeing from a filmmaking perspective, but what amazes me are the glimpses of the gospel story that are present throughout the original animated film and this new live-action retelling. I'm a firm believer that all well told stories offer a glimpse of the greatest story, that of God sending Jesus Christ to save and redeem sinners through his sacrificial love. Here are two ways that B&B depicts the gospel story:
Restoration and Making All Things NEw
As the film draws to its climax, the final rose petal falls. The beloved servants turn into antiques, losing their humanity. The beast dies, without a hope of being restored. Belle weeps with the thought of losing the one that she loves. We weep and we mourn. It's a sad moment, and it looks like there is no hope.
But as Belle weeps over the Beast, she tells him that she loves him. With her proclamation of love, light suddenly surrounds him, turning the beast back into a man, and restoring him to life. Belle's love saves him. As the Beast is restored to a man, the people of the castle are restored as well. They are all transformed into humans again, and the castle returns to its former glory. It is a beautiful moment, watching the transformation and the restoration, but it is a glimpse of a restoration that will be even more magnificent and beautiful, when Jesus will make all things new. John, one of Jesus' disciples, writes about this in the book of Revelations:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
The restoration that we see in Beauty and the Beast is a picture of what the restoration will be like when sinners are restored to the Lord through the love and sacrifice of Jesus. But that's not all! It's also a glimpse of what it will be like when the earth is restored and made new. We love this aspect of Beauty and the Beast because it is a picture of what is to come for those that receive the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and love him in return. Our hearts enjoy watching restorations in films, because our souls are longing for when everything will be made new and right again.
Saved and changed By Love
Have you ever noticed that what doesn't save the Beast is that he loves Belle, but rather what saves him is that Belle loves him. It wasn't until watching the new retelling that this fact from the film struck a chord in my heart.
I'm just like the Beast. I am not saved simply by my own love for Jesus, I am saved by Jesus' love for me, that He loved me so much that he went to the cross willingly to die for sinners like me, to restore us to God (John 3:16). While I do love Jesus, what will restore me and others to (eternal) life and will transform us into glory in a more spectacular way than in Beauty and the Beast is Jesus' sacrificial love for sinners. Jesus' love is what transforms beasts (sinners) into humans and makes us new.
These are just two gospel themes that I've been thinking about after viewing the new retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I'm sure there are more themes that I could pick out (I guess I'll just have to go watch it again), but it's beautiful to see glimpses of the ultimate tale as old as time in a well-known classic. It's a reminder that every story is a reflection of the greatest story, the gospel. The difference is that the gospel is a true story that will end with a real restoration and real transformations.
So when you watch Beauty and the Beast (or re-watch it again and again like me), I hope that it points you to the ultimate tale as old as time, and that you watch as the restoration and transformation unfolds on screen, knowing that it is a glimpse of a greater story that is unfolding.
If you want to listen to music from the new film, check out the new album: Beauty and the Beast (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
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