There’s no Wagner in Kevin Reynolds’ retelling of the tragedy. There may be some Ridley Scott (as co-producer, who originally wanted to make the film himself). The story of the political marriage between the Irish king’s daughter and Lord Marke of Cornwall coming unstuck when she falls for his adopted son unfolds more gently and with less violence than expected. There’s an attempt to create an ancient civilisation with allusions to others (is that an Orthodox priest in the marriage scene?), and the characters are humans, not comic-book symbols. Melot (Henry Cavill), Wagner’s deep-dyed villain, is here a weak-willed young man, hurt when supplanted by golden boy Tristan even in his own family – and Cavill might have made a more interesting hero than Franco, who looks good and that’s all. But then the ambivalent characters are all more interesting than the lovers. Rufus Sewell gives his usual hints of knowing more than he lets on as Marke and Bronagh Gallagher is a rounded human being as Isolde’s loyal maid. But, not bloody enough for adventure, not deep enough to move, this ‘Tristan’ ends up pretty and rather dull.
Cast and crew