When I was in 10th grade, I was dual-enrolled at the local community college, which meant one of my elective courses during the school day was left gloriously blank. Of course at the time, I was only 15 going on 16 (you know you just sang the Sound of Music in your head), which meant I could go absolutely no where until my dad collected me at the end of the day.
My best friend at the time, who for purposes of anonymity I will refer to as KC, was likewise dual-enrolled with a free period, and in a fit of extreme generosity, our very young and very likable geometry teacher let us camp in her room, which was her free period as well. Her room shared an office area with three other teachers/rooms and we were ecstatic to be encouraged by another teacher in the quad-pod to delve into her old VHS movie collections to bide our time. (Seriously, as an adult myself now, I glory at these teachers’ letting us into their private time when they had to deal with teenagers ALL DAY LONG. Where ever you are, wonderful teachers, I thank you!)
First of all, as sheltered, bookish child, I had missed out on a lot of pop media in my day. KC, who was as pop-media savvy as I was naive, and I were quickly mowing through a variety of classic films, when the subject of The Princess Bride sprouted.
“What do you mean you’ve never seen The Princess Bride?!” KC exclaimed one day over popcorn and a movie, our feet propped up on the adjoining desks. The revelation was so overwhelming she actually stood up. “This is completely unacceptable. It’s my favorite movie ON THE PLANET. How in the world could you never have seen it?” (Leah says, inspired by the rhyming game: “What do you mean you haven’t seen it?” “Anybody want a peanut?”)
“I’m pretty sure I’ve seen pieces…” I answered timidly. “Something with a swamp and big puppet-y rats?”
Two days later, her own VHS copy of The Princess Bride made an appearance and I can legitimately say my life has never been the same.
Pirates. Princesses. Wit. Danger. Vendettas. SWORD-FIGHTING. Young Cary Elwes. Is there a moment of this film that isn’t to be savored? It very well might be my favorite movie of all time. It is definitely a movie that I would stop and watch every time it comes on TV (like all the Mummy films, but we’ll save that for another #FandomFriday).
My personal favorite moment of The Princess Bride though, comes very near the end. As you move along through the plot and get swept away by the equal measures of ludicrousness and action, there is one critical moment where suddenly the story turns.
Inigo is fighting the Six-Fingered Man in the castle, and he is desperately wounded. Count Rugen is good with a sword, and he is playing with Inigo like a cat with a mouse, not even winded. All of a sudden the momentum shifts and Inigo is flying like a demon out of hell at him. He pins the Six-Fingered Man and tells him to beg. Despite everything he says, Inigo looks at him, the silence around him serious and telling.
Inigo Montoya: Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!
Count Rugen: Stop saying that!
Inigo Montoya: HELLO! MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA! YOU KILLED MY FATHER! PREPARE TO DIE!
Inigo Montoya: Offer me money.
Count Rugen: Yes!
Inigo Montoya: Power, too, promise me that.
Count Rugen: All that I have and more. Please…
Inigo Montoya: Offer me anything I ask for.
Count Rugen: Anything you want…
Inigo Montoya: I want my father back, you son of a b****!
The moment is intense. The camera is on Mandy Patinkin’s face, tight. You feel his pain coming right at you. You know there is nothing in the world that can replace his father. All of a sudden the story has taken a turn from the perpetually and delightfully silly to deadly serious. Suddenly, we as the audience are brought to a very uncomfortable moment of realizing that this is not all fun and games. It is a moment of cinematic mastery.
The title of the film fools you. You believe to yourself up until that moment that the story is about Buttercup, and about Wesley’s fight back from death (multiple times, really) to rescue her. It is not till that moment that you truly realize that it’s about something so much bigger than that. It’s about a struggle to find and keep purpose in life.
Inigo is left strangely bereft after his defeat of his father’s killer. Wesley turns to him, as they escape out a window of Prince Humperdinck’s castle, and asks him what he will do now. Inigo is unsure; his sole purpose in life now completed.
Inigo: You know, It’s very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.
Westley: Have you ever considered piracy? You’d make a wonderful dread pirate Roberts.
And, just like that, we’re back to the humorous and light. It’s a testament to the brilliance of the film’s writing that two moments such as that could be juxtaposed with ease.
The Princess Bride is a timeless classic because we, like the grandson, get caught up in the thrilling, funny tale with which we can all identify. Who has not suffered loss like Buttercup and Inigo? Who has not felt out of place at some time or other like Fezzik the Giant? Who has not dealt with an insufferable blowhard like Prince Humperdinck? Each watching gives both familiarity of a well-beloved friend at the same time as finding a new love for some minutiae that was not previously caught.
Good media speaks to us. It reminds us of our own journeys. The Princess Bride has become such an eternal cult classic because we are reminded of all our own journeys in watching it.
What is your favorite film? How does it speak to you?