How The Princess Bride gets under your skin

A love letter to The Princess Bride, a film that never fails to brighten a day.

The Princess Bride is 30 years old this year, an anniversary that feels truly inconceivable.

This is not going to be an article about the making of the film – Westley himself, Cary Elwes, wrote a wonderful book entitled As You Wish, which does a far better job of that than I ever could. Nor will this article be examining the release – i.e. how it died at the box office but became an instant classic upon VHS release (“For death cannot stop true love!”)

Instead this is my love letter to my favourite film of all time. A film that I love unconditionally with more passion and devotion than any adjective could allow me to describe. A filmic love affair for which I had commemorated onto a pair of converse and that I dedicated my 24th birthday to with a special cinema screening thanks to Genesis Cinema. There is no other film on Earth that I have seen as often, could quote as efficiently nor brighten my day as unequivocally as The Princess Bride.

Although it may have been released six years before my arrival on Earth, the film hasn’t always been in my life. In fact I wasn’t introduced to it until I was 15. And, honest admission time as I feel you and I have bonded thus far, at the beginning I didn’t actually want to watch it. At all (15 year-old me was clearly a moron…). I won’t claim that my parents forced me to watch it – as is the teenage way I felt apathetic towards the situation – but my confidence in my parents’ film choice wasn’t exactly overwhelming. Then it started. Nothing miraculous happened. An old man and his grandson were having a conversation and I was questioning why we were watching such an ‘old’ film. Then we meet Buttercup and ‘Oh, farm boy!’ Westley. Still. Nothing. Then Grandpa (the late, great Peter Falk) says “That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying “As you wish”, what he meant was, “I love you.” And even more amazing was the day she realized she truly loved him back.”

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For some reason I clicked with that line. There was something familiar about it, as if I’d heard it before, yet also something incredibly funny about it. A line that was as equally beautiful as it was ludicrous. A line I found so utterly hilarious I found myself literally rolling on the floor laughing to the extent the film had to be paused until I returned to my typical state of relative calm. It was a ‘cheque please’ moment, an ‘I think I love you’ moment, a meet-cute that led to utter devotion.

I struggle to recall watching the rest of the film, although I know I did. I also know I re-watched it soon after. And soon after that. I showed it to one friend, then another, then another,to the extent that I started to watch my companion’s face instead of the film to ensure they were enjoying the film just as much as I was. Friendships were founded or given the cease & desist based on the level of enthusiasm displayed. Even at my birthday screening last August I found myself seated with my Brute Squad, waiting in nervous anticipation, hoping that fans both new and old would share in my love of it.

True love, like that I feel for The Princess Bride, doesn’t happen every day. It’s all about watching the right film at the right moment.

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At age fifteen I was undertaking my GCSEs – a period of my life where I felt capable of dizzying intellect yet my grades made feel me like no one of consequence. Media studies had been one of the options I had selected for myself. Although I truly loved what I was learning and was getting the sense that this was something I wanted to specialise in, well, it had somewhat ruined the film watching experience as I had previously known it, something which did put a damper on my relationship with my favourite subject. It felt like I was being forced to analyse everything to the smallest of details, a skill I had previously applied to everything in my life except my watching films for pleasure.

At the start of the course (a year before The Princess Bride rode into my life), we had to pick a scene from a favourite film and write an in-depth analysis on it. I’d chosen Starsky And Hutch (2004) – no judgements please – and focused on the prison scene featuring Will Ferrell. I watched it 35 times. Yes, I kept count. I analysed every minute detail, every single feature deconstructed within an inch of its life. I could have been a champion on Mastermind with that scene being my chosen subject.

A year in and I was truly struggling to watch cinema in quite the same way as I had before starting media studies. Watching things seemed to become an arduous process – a less than noble cause – as I instead treated any film I watched as a scientific object, begging for autopsy-like analysis, rather than a celebration of creativity or the escapism it had previously been. Watching The Princess Bride didn’t fix this, it’s taken a long time to be able to switch off the critical brain and enjoy some films for what they are, but it was the first film I truly remember being able to align enjoyment and appreciation. Not only is The Princess Bride a heart-warming and hilarious watch, it’s also tremendously well-made and extraordinarily well-told. I’ll fight you to the pain if you question me otherwise.

Nearly ten years on and I still think sometimes that life is pain but I know that I don’t need a Miracle Max when I’ve got just the film to fix it. That’s the thing about wuv. Tru wuv, will fowow you foweva…