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A beautiful 18th century Princess (Mira Sorvino) has fallen in love with her sworn enemy Agis (Jay Rodan) who is the rightful heir to the throne. Disguised as a gentleman and accompanied by her lady-in-waiting Corinne (Rachael Stirling), the Princess passes herself off as philosophy student called Phocion. As Phocion she requests entree to the villa of philosopher Hermocrates (Ben Kingsley), who has raised Agis in secret exile. A tangled web is woven as the Princess, in various guises, succeeds in romancing Hermocrates and his sister Leontine (Fiona Shaw) while her main goal of winning Agis seems to be slipping away. 

Review by Louise Keller:
A frivolous flutter through the art of seduction, Triumph of Love is a visually sumptuous costumer set in exquisite gardens and villas in Tuscany. Worth seeing for its gorgeous setting alone, this lively farce about politics, position and passion allows us to believe its gender deception more readily due to the formality of its 18th century setting, albeit at arms length. The premise that love can make anyone do crazy things is timeless, and Pierre Marivaux’s lyrical and flowery script raises interesting issues that are relevant even today. Although I rather enjoyed this romantic escape to a world where the focus is on the philosophy rather than the physical aspects of love, I have a reservation about the casting of its leading lady Mira Sorvino, whose performance doesn’t quite hit the target. The role of the Princess essentially carries the film and while Sorvino looks lovely and effects charming girlish wiles, it’s credibility that is lacking here. Nor has she aptly judged her screen presence with a performance that might fit on a theatre stage. But the targets of her affections are absolutely convincing and Fiona Shaw will break your heart with her pathetically convincing spinster sister, whose self-image is so low that we almost cringe for her. I like the way Ben Kingsley’s philosopher Hermocrates character develops: by the end, he is putty in the Princess’s hands. Every scene is a painting, beautifully framed by fine cinematography, while Jason Osborn’s richly orchestrated score transports us into a wondrous world in which our senses prevail and from which our eyes and ears can feast. The richness of the drapes, the majesty of the statues, the paintings, candelabras, murals, brocades, manicured gardens and lavish costumes form a plush backdrop and entice us into this complex maze of human emotions, offering no logic to the mystery that is love.

Review by Richard Kuipers: 
Badly filmed, choppily edited, a miscast leading lady and the location audio sounds muddy enough for crabs to live in. Just as well the words of Pierre Marivaux's 18th century romantic comedy are still witty. What ever 'inspired' director Clare Peploe to shoot this delightful comedy of sexual manners in documentary style on Super-16? I'm all for innovation but this technically ragged production has the feel of a Dogme experiment gone wrong and works against the light, bright tone of the piece. It's hard to get excited about the gender-bending Princess and her tangled web of romantic conquests when we're so distracted by jerky jump-cut edits and the badly composed, frequently over-exposed hand-held pictures. Mira Sorvino is usually a delightful comic actress but she never seems comfortable here, either as a man or a woman. Whether she's convincing in drag is not the issue; she looks like the nervous lead in a school play and never swings into gear because she's delivering a stage performance for a motion picture audience. There are better-tuned performances elsewhere, notably Fiona Shaw as the repressed scientist sister of Ben Kingsley's philosopher and Kingsley himself as a man of reason who loses his head. When the soundtrack isn't muffled there is funny and charming dialogue to listen to but watching these crudely composed images isn't my idea of enjoyable costume drama. Some audiences may admire Peploe playing around with the conventions of performance, reality, film and theatre and they are most welcome to enjoy Triumph of Love which, for me, is anything but a triumph of movie-making despite isolated moments of pleasure.

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CAST: Mira Sorvino, Ben Kingsley, Fiona Shaw, Jay Rodan

PRODUCER: Bernardo Bertolucci

DIRECTOR: Clare Peploe

SCRIPT: Clare Peploe, Bernardo Bertolucci


EDITOR: Jacopo Quadri

MUSIC: Jason Osborn


RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 26, 2002


VIDEO RELEASE: 21st March, 2003 (also on DVD)

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