I remember seeing Ladyhawke when it first came out, and it was beautiful then. The music, the costumes, most of the acting; it was all very imaginative and delightful to behold. It has been several years since I last watched it, so I figured the 2017 solar eclipse was a perfect time to renew my love for the film.
Philippe Gaston (Matthew Broderick) has just escaped from the inescapable dungeons of Aquila and is being hunted. He is rescued by Captain Navarre (Rutger Hauer) from the guards sent to return Gaston to the dungeon.
Two years before that, Navarre and his beloved Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer) were cursed by the jealous and evil Bishop of Aquila. They were cursed by the Bishop for falling in love, so she becomes a hawk by day and he becomes a wolf by night. Even though they are always together, they can never be together as humans.
The cinematography in Ladyhawke is beautiful. Various scenic locations and buildings in Italy were used to great effect, giving the film a solid foundation in reality despite its fantastical premise. I especially loved the night scenes at Torrechiara. While the vegetation is sparse, the plateau at Campo Imperatore is a wonderful location. I would love to visit it sometime.
The costumes were very well done, too, and the amount of detail that went into many of them was wonderful. I think the costumers really did their homework. It would be fun to cosplay one or more of them.
At the time of the film, I was not a huge Alan Parsons fan because I had never listened to anything else they had done. I really liked their work on Ladyhawke, however. I found that the combination of styles represented in the soundtrack really enhanced every scene. From the tentative love theme to the sweeping music used in the wide shots, every note drew me into the film. Even my 7-month-old daughter was mesmerized by the music.
By far, the best acting in the film was from Broderick. His monologue conversations with God were wonderful and interesting. Having him justify various actions while also trying in many ways to be a better person did a good job of showing the the inner turmoil many people have in everyday life. And his character was a good person stuck in less-than-optimal conditions from a very young age.
Hauer and Pfeiffer, while both excellent actors, did not quite hit the mark. Imperius (played exceedingly well by Leo McKern, one of my favorite actors from back in his Rumpole of the Bailey days) did better than either of them, and he was only in a few scenes in the second half of Ladyhawke. I also found the Bishop (John Wood) too wooden.
Despite the various flaws and failings, I love watching this film. It is simply a fun and enjoyable film that doesn’t require me to think too deeply. It’s almost relaxing. I plan to watch Ladyhawke regularly long into the future. I recommend it!
Release Date: April 12, 1985 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (very brief social drinking, a drunk priest)
Language: 1 (mild, deity)
Sexuality: 0 (very brief innuendo)
Violence: 2 (some sword fighting, brief blood, death)