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Ladyhawke is a 1985 fantasy film directed by Richard Donner, starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer.

In medieval Europe a thief called "The Mouse" escapes the dungeons of Aquila, setting in motion a chain of events that may save or destroy a beautiful woman and a brave captain. The two lovers are doomed to lifelong separation by a demonic curse invoked by the corrupt and jealous Bishop of Aquila: by day Isabeau is transformed into a real hawk (the "Ladyhawke" of the title), while at night Navarre becomes a black wolf. But the monk Imperius has found a way to break the curse, if the Mouse can get them back into Aquila.

Plot

In twelfth century Europe, Philippe Gaston, "The Mouse" (Matthew Broderick), is a thief facing execution who escapes the dungeons of Aquila and flees to the countryside. The Bishop of Aquila (John Wood) sends his Captain of the Guard Marquet (Ken Hutchison) to hunt down Phillipe; he and his soldiers corner Philippe, but are foiled by a mysterious black knight known to them as Captain Navarre (Rutger Hauer), who travels with a beautiful and devoted hawk. Marquet warns the Bishop of Navarre's return, who among other things summons Cezar (Alfred Molina) the wolf trapper.

Navarre tells Philippe why he saved him: he needs Philippe's unique knowledge to lead him inside Aquila and kill the Bishop. As they travel Philippe becomes aware of mysterious and frightening events surrounding them, including the appearance at night of a black wolf and a stunningly beautiful woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is unafraid of the wolf.

Navarre and the hawk are wounded in another encounter with the Bishop's men; Navarre sends the hawk with Philippe to the old monk Imperius (Leo McKern), to heal her. At the ruined castle Philippe finally realizes the truth, which Imperius confirms: the hawk is a woman named Isabeau of Anjou, who came to live in Aquila after her father died at Antiochmarker (see First Crusade). All who saw her fell in love with her, including the powerful and corrupt Bishop. But Isabeau was already in love with his Captain of the Guards, Etienne of Navarre, with whom she secretly exchanged vows.

Accidentally betrayed by their confessor, Imperius, they fled. In his insane jealousy the Bishop made a demonic pact to ensure they would be "Always together; forever apart": by day Isabeau becomes a hawk, by night Navarre becomes a black wolf. Neither has any memory of their half-life in animal form; only at dusk and dawn of each day can they see each other in human form for one fleeting moment, but can never touch.

In despair Navarre plans to kill the Bishop or die in the attempt, making the curse irrevocable. But Imperius has discovered a way to break the curse; he and Philippe must convince the lovers to try. If they can win through the adventures that befall them (including an encounter with Cezar), in three days' time a solar eclipse at Aquila will create "a day without a night and a night without a day": when the lovers stand together in human form before the Bishop, the curse will be broken.

Cast



Soundtrack

The film's score was composed by Andrew Powell. Richard Donner stated that he was listening to The Alan Parsons Project (on which Powell collaborated) while scouting for locations, and became unable to separate his visual ideas from the music. Powell combined traditional orchestral music and Gregorian chants with contemporary progressive rock-infused material, to controversial effect. It has been cited as the most memorable example of the growing trend among 1980s fantasy films of abandoning the lush orchestral scores of composers such as John Williams and James Horner in favour of a modern pop/rock sound.

Filming locations

Ladyhawke was filmed in Italymarker, principally in L'Aquilamarker, a medieval town in the Abruzzo region; the alpine meadow of Campo Imperatoremarker served as a prominent exterior location, while the final scene was filmed at Rocca Calasciomarker, a ruined fortress atop a mountain. In the region of Emilia-Romagna, the castles at Castell'Arquatomarker in Piacenzamarker and Torrechiaramarker in Parmamarker (the castle of the movie) were also featured. Other Italian locations used include Soncino in the Lombardia region, Bellunomarker in the Veneto region, and the Lazio region around Romemarker.

Critical reception

Ladyhawke has a rating of 63% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 19 critics' reviews, indicating a fairly positive critical reception. Vincent Canby in the New York Times called the film "divided against itself," and went on to say that "scenes of high adventure or of visual splendor... are spliced between other scenes with dialogue of a banality that recalls the famous Tony Curtis line, 'Yondah lies my faddah's castle.'" Time Out called it "all rather facile sword-and-sorcery stuff, of course, but at times very funny... and always beautifully photographed." Variety described the film as a "very likeable, very well-made fairytale... worthwhile for its extremely authentic look alone."

The New York Times singled out Matthew Broderick's skill in coming "very close to transforming contemporary wisecracks – particularly, his asides to God – into a more ageless kind of comedy," and said of Michelle Pfeiffer that her "presence, both ethereal and erotic, is so vivid that even when she's represented as a hawk, she still seems to be on the screen." Variety praised the casting of the lead actors, considering Pfeiffer "perfect as the enchanting beauty." Time Out called Rutger Hauer "camp" and Pfeiffer "decorative."

Andrew Powell's score has been widely criticised as "dated" in the years since the film's release; Rob Vaux of Flipside Movie Emporium described it as the "worst soundtrack ever composed."

Awards and nominations

Ladyhawke was nominated for two Academy Awards, in the categories of Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing, winning neither. It won a Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, and was nominated in the categories of Best Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Best Music (Andrew Powell).

References



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