Al the way back to the 20s- 30s each decade has made its contribution to movies that added something regarding style or approach. From the wild and wacky sixties whose experimental, lighthearted and drug-fueled unorthodox approaches reflected the social revolution and upheaval of the times or the more grounded grim and gritty approach of the seventies. No decade outperforms the eighties for memorable and delightful films that never seem to lose their charm, appeal, and watchability.
Movie creativity seemed the enjoy a kind of renaissance in the eighties. The decade that gave birth to such films as Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Terminator, Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, and Die Hard, etc.was unlike any other. These films took the best qualities of the movies made in the decades that proceeded it and adding a little something of its own in the form of a lighthearted uniqueness that is an unmistakable eighties zeitgeist that to this day inspires more recent work to attempt to imitate it.
What makes Ladyhawke such a unique film and enduring cult classic today? There are a lot of contributing factors including Richard Donner’s direction that gave the film its dream-like and surreal quality, and not the least of which is its cast. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find a more perfect casting than Rutger Hauer as the stoic and brooding Navarre and Michelle Pfeifer as the titular lady. The star-crossed lovers doomed to be separated by day and night, cursed by the evil and corrupt Bishop of Aquila whose jealousy and envy of the pair is the source of their unhappiness. The film’s ancient rustic settings and rural locales are ideally suited for the material and enhance it without being a distraction.
Born of more humble beginnings but no less critical to the film’s narrative is the thief Phillipe “The Mouse” Gaston, the only one ever imprisoned in the Bishop’s prison to escape, a feat later revealed as essential to the plot. His part is memorably portrayed by a still young Mathew Broderick and serves well as a countermeasure to the somewhat dark and gloomy themes that play out as the main plot of the film. The film also includes a welcome but brief appearance by Leo McKern. It’s a simple story part fairy tale and reminiscent of Shakespeare, the film, and its story rely heavily on Jungian themes and archetypes as old as the human psyche itself. This story is the stuff of fairy tales built of the same materials that inhabit our dreams and guaranteed by that that a story like this will always endure.
There will be peril and setbacks that eventually and inevitably lead to a happy conclusion for the pair that endured long years the long years of torment from being so close and yet remains as separated as if they inhabited two different worlds. Eventually, justice will get done, and the definitive conclusion of the timeless battle between good and evil will play out once again allowing us to breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge things will be as they should happily ever after until it happens again.