|And that certainly complicates the situation.
When the dragon takes over, Arman is trapped inside, and cannot control the dragon's murderous actions, but as a man he wants to help Mira escape. So while the two wait for Igor, Mira's fiancé, to be led to the island by Mira's love for him, Mira teaches Arman how to live like a human, in the hope that he can learn to control the beast inside him. It's not really a spoiler to say that the two grow close and begin to develop feelings for each other. This is a fairytale after all, and more or less follows the plot structure of Beauty and the Beast.
What makes this story different is... practically everything else. I hardly even know where to begin. Well, first, the movie is Russian, so there's an overall unusual, non-mainstream tone over the whole thing. It feels exotic. The script is poetic in a non-uppity way, and some of the lines actually took my breath way. Just simple lines of dialogue. At the beginning of the movie someone says, "They had tears where their eyes should have been, and fear where their hearts should have been..." and something about the simple beauty of that stunned me. The script also hits the romance in a similar straightforward fashion. And it gives plenty of wit, remembering to have fun too.
|Also there's great music. Especially the song that is sung that summons the dragon.
The next thing to leave an impression on me was the visual. This movie is top to bottom one of the most consistently gorgeous films I've ever seen. It achieves this by starting out with striking visuals in sets, locations, costumes, and even casting. The snowy lake-town Mira is from is full of black white and red contrast. Then Arman's island is actually the massive skeleton of an ancient dragon. The jaw juts up into the air as a tower, full of rooms inside his head. I have never seen anything like it; yet, it's so simple, like the most natural thing ever. I could stare at it for hours even without a plot going on around it.
And then everything is shot with wonderful attention to detail. Lovely framing, tight focusing, immaculate use of color; everything in the movie is so beautiful, yet the cinematography puts effort into enhancing it all even further. Some of the shots they got in there knocked my socks off. Slow motion is used in excess, and that's usually something that bothers me, but here it did such a nice job elevating the mood of the scenes that used it, I hardly even noticed. And clearly, a ton of effort and care was put into the creation of the dragon and the fantasy world, because the effects are great throughout.
|Doesn't this make you want to die of happiness because it's so impossibly beautiful??
Then comes character. At the beginning of the film, Mira comes across as a petty little child, bordering on a brat, and when she's first kidnapped she starts getting whiny in a way I thought was going to irritate me for the rest of the movie. But, she actually changes. Actually. Really. Changes. At one point she tells Arman that she can be very annoying, and the self awareness of that turned the tide. From then she quickly develops into a thoroughly likable heroine, and I was impressed at how she seems to physically mature as well. Arman is a pretty classic Romance love interest: handsome, grumpy, kind, dangerous, tragic past. He hits all the checkpoints. But he never becomes too cliché or boring. A classic trope done well.
The romance in this movie is so sweet. I've always been wary of the romance genre because it steers so easily into sentimental cheesiness, and even easier into inappropriateness. I went into it blind of its content level and was surprised at how family-friendly it was. It would get a PG-13, and that only due to an inconvenience where Arman's clothes burn off every time he turns into the dragon. Nothing we weren't subjected to in Wonder Woman. But back to the point: That this movie is really, really sweet. It sounds so weird to say that because if I'd heard that before watching this, it might have made me consider not watching. "Sweet" in a romance films equals "sappy and childish and cringe-worthy" right? Well, no.
|It's just sweet like... romantic. Actually romantic.
Like with the rest of the film, its romance is done simply, and with honesty. It might not hit the nail square on the head with its message on love, but it means every word of it, and there's something rare and appealing to that kind of openness. And one last thing that might seem random, but I totally loved: You know how in movies girls will cut their hair with kitchen scissors and in the next scene it looks styled and fantastic? Well in this, Mira cuts her own hair and then spends the rest of the movie with a choppy, lopsided haircut. They made sure it was still stylish and pretty of course, but in a convincingly accidental way. I was so impressed.
I am Dragon is currently stream-able on Amazon, and I recommend it as an ideal fairytale in almost every way. Beautiful, fantastic locations, characters that you care for and want to see succeed, a familiar but unique plot full of bold and memorable imagery, sweeping romance, musings on true love, and, most importantly, princesses and dragons. A true gem indeed.