Tristan & Isolde (film)

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Tristan & Isolde
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKevin Reynolds
Produced by
Written byDean Georgaris
Music byAnne Dudley
CinematographyArthur Reinhart
Edited byPeter Boyle
Distributed by
  • 20th Century Fox (US/UK)
  • Kinowelt Filmverleih (Germany)
  • Bioscop (Czech Republic)
Release date
  • January 13, 2006 (2006-01-13) (United States)
  • April 21, 2006 (2006-04-21) (United Kingdom)
  • May 4, 2006 (2006-05-04) (Czech Republic)
  • May 18, 2006 (2006-05-18) (Germany)
Running time
125 minutes[1]
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Czech Republic
Box office$28 million[2]

Tristan & Isolde is a 2006 epic romantic drama film directed by Kevin Reynolds and written by Dean Georgaris based on the medieval romantic legend of Tristan and Isolde. Produced by Ridley Scott (who had been working on an adaptation since the mid-1970s) and Tony Scott, the film stars James Franco and Sophia Myles, alongside a supporting cast featuring Rufus Sewell, Mark Strong, and Henry Cavill. This was Franchise Pictures' last film before bankruptcy.


The film is set in England and Ireland, in the Dark Ages, after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. Lord Marke of Cornwall plans to unify the peoples of Britain – Celts, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes – under himself as high king to resist Irish domination.

Most lords agree to this, as Marke is highly regarded and respected as a fair and courageous leader. The Irish king Donnchadh discovers this and sends troops to attack a Jutish castle where a treaty between the British tribes is being discussed. The raid claims the lives of the castle's lord and his wife, but Marke manages to save their son, Tristan, at the cost of losing a hand. Feeling compassion for the young boy, whose father loyally supported him, Marke welcomes Tristan into his home and regards him as a son.

Nine years later, Tristan has grown into a fierce, courageous warrior whose loyalty to Marke is that of a son to his father. Tristan and other Cornish warriors launch an attack on an Irish slave caravan. Tristan fights Morholt, the champion and leader of the army of Donnchadh, whose lord's daughter, Princess Isolde, has been promised to Morholt in marriage. Though Tristan kills Morholt and Donnchadh's forces are overrun, he is severely wounded in the fight and believed dead, though he is in fact only suffering the effects of Morholt's poisoned sword.

Tristan's body is put out to sea on a funeral boat which eventually washes up along the shores of Ireland. He is discovered by Isolde and her maid, Bragnae, who administer an antidote that revives him. Bragnae insists that Isolde conceal her identity so Isolde tells Tristan her name is Bragnae and that she is a lady-in-waiting. Tristan and Isolde fall in love as she nurses him back to health. The two lovers must separate after Tristan's boat is discovered. Tristan returns to Cornwall and receives a hero's welcome. A confused but overjoyed Marke welcomes him back with open arms.

Plotting to defeat Britain, Donnchadh proposes a peace treaty, promising his daughter Isolde in marriage to the winner of a tournament. Tristan wins the tournament on behalf of Marke, unaware that "the prize" is the woman he fell in love with in Ireland. When he discovers the truth about Isolde, he is heartbroken to see her betrothed to Marke, but accepts it since the marriage will end "a hundred years of bloodshed."

Marke is kind to Isolde and genuinely falls in love with her and although Isolde grows fond of him, her heart still belongs to Tristan. Isolde tells Tristan that she is his anytime he wants. Tristan is torn between his love for Isolde and his loyalty to Marke. Marke is confused over what is tormenting Tristan and disappointed by the distance he is putting between them.

Tristan eventually gives in to Isolde; they renew their love and begin an affair, which is discovered by Lord Wictred, a longstanding dissenter to Marke's leadership. He informs Donnchadh and they conspire to use their love to overthrow Marke, with Wictred getting Marke's throne in exchange. Marke confides in Tristan that he believes Isolde is having an affair. Tristan is tormented by the guilt and burns down the garden where he would meet Isolde. After Marke and Isolde's coronation, Tristan attempts to end their relationship, but Isolde begs him not to leave her. They are caught in an embrace by Marke, Donnchadh, and the other British kings. Donnchadh pretends to be furious and ends the alliance. Seeing this as weakness on Marke's part, the other kings also decide to part ways with him.

Marke is hurt and furious over his wife and son-figure's betrayal. However, after Isolde explains their history, Marke relents. Tristan is taken to the river and Isolde tells him that Marke is letting them run away together. Tristan puts Isolde in the boat meant for their escape and tells her that if they leave they will be remembered for all time as those "whose love brought down a kingdom." Tristan pushes the boat away from the shore and runs off to the ensuing battle.

At the same time, Marke's nephew and Tristan's old friend, Melot, resentful of his uncle's long favouring of Tristan, shows Wictred an old passage into the Roman foundations of Marke's castle. Wictred had made Melot believe that he will become king when Marke is defeated. Once they are in the passage, Wictred stabs Melot and sneaks his army into the castle. Marke and his forces swiftly become pinned down by Donnchadh's army outside the castle and Wictred's men within.

Tristan sneaks back into the castle via the secret tunnel, which he used to carry out his affair with Isolde. On the way, he finds the dying Melot; the old friends forgive one another before he dies. Tristan emerges from the tunnel and attacks Wictred's men, allowing Marke's soldiers to secure the castle, but he is mortally wounded in combat by Wictred, whom he still manages to kill. Now outnumbered, Tristan, Marke and the soldiers loyal to him emerge from the castle and present Wictred's severed head to Donnchadh. Marke urges the British kings standing with the Irish to aid them in making Britain a single, free nation. Inspired by his words, the British kings and their men attack Donnchadh and his army.

As a fierce battle between the British and Irish erupts, Marke carries a dying Tristan to the river, where they are met by Isolde. Marke leaves to lead the British to victory, while Tristan dies in Isolde's arms after uttering his last words: "You were right. I don't know if life is greater than death. But love was more than either." Isolde sees to his burial beneath the ashes of the Roman villa where they had met to be with each other. She plants two willows by the grave, which grow intertwined. She then disappears from history and is never seen again. Marke, it is said, defeated the Irish, united Britain, then ruled in peace until the end of his days.



In the mid-1970s, before the beginning of the filming of The Duellists, Ridley Scott pitched the idea of a film adaptation of medieval romantic legend of Tristan and Iseult, and he planned to release this film as his second movie.[3] However, the project never materialized at the time, and Scott pitched the idea of Legend during the filming of The Duellists as a replacement of this project.[4] The film was finally released in 2006 with Kevin Reynolds as the director and with Scott as the producer.


Box office[edit]

Tristan + Isolde opened theatrically in 1,845 North American venues on January 13, 2006. In its first weekend, the film earned $6,583,135 and ranked eighth in the domestic box office.[5] The film ended its run on March 30, having grossed $14,734,633 in the United States and Canada, and $13,313,330 internationally for a worldwide total of $28,047,963.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 32% score based on 121 reviews, with an average rating of 4.9/10. The site's consensus states: "Competent but somewhat static, Tristan & Isolde doesn't achieve the sweeping romanticism that it aims for."[6] Metacritic reports a 49 out of 100 based on 30 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[7]

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times writes, "there is something undeniably pleasant about an entertainment like Tristan & Isolde that delivers exactly what it promises, no less, no more." She adds: "There is some fairly bloodless fighting and some very chaste lovemaking."[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "TRISTAN + ISOLDE (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. November 30, 2005. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Tristan and Isolde (2006)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. March 31, 2006. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  3. ^ Evan Jacobs. "EXCLUSIVE: Setting the Period With Tristan + Isolde Executive Producer Ridley Scott". Retrieved 2016-12-06.
  4. ^ Franco, James. "James Franco's Favorite Mistake: Filming Tristan & Isolde". Retrieved 2016-12-06.
  5. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for January 13-15, 2006". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. January 16, 2006. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  6. ^ "Tristan & Isolde (2006)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  7. ^ "Tristan & Isolde reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  8. ^ Manohla Dargis, "Young Lovers in a Cave Can't Escape the World", The New York Times, January 13, 2006.

External links[edit]