» Ladyhawke Movie Review

 by Bernhard Marshall - July 5, 2003

ladyhawkeI know what you may be thinking: “What the heck is this romantic movie doing in a Gothic art site?” Well, this site’s purpose is not only to show details on many of the known and approved aspects of Gothic art, but also to show artworks that aren’t considered Gothic but that have things to do with the culture.

So that’s why as a second article on Gothic movies we, the Dark Chamber Staff, decided to show here something different from horror or dark suspense movies. If you’re not thinking such a thing, read on too, you may find it amusing, at least...

Now, on to the facts: Ladyhawke is a 1984 movie that was directed by Richard Donner, and stars the debuting Matthew Broderick, Dutch actor Hutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer in the beginning of her career.

As the link description says, Ladyhawke’s a tale that sounds like a medieval legend, but in truth, it was a story created by Ed Khmara, who made a large research on medieval life and folklore and came out with a screenplay full mystique and dark romanticism.

The Way It Goes

rutger hauer in ladyhawkeThe Ladyhawke story starts in a winter season in France, in 1239. Phillip the Mouse (Matthew Broderick) is a robber who manages to escape from the Bishop of Aquila’s dungeons, and once out, the first thing he does is steal gold from a guard…

Then he goes to a road tavern, where he displays his money carelessly and calls the attention of some other Bishop’s guards that there were there, who try to re-capture him.

That’s when Navarre (Hutger Hauer), a former Captain of the Guard, rescues him and keeps the robber as his page. From the tavern they cross the woods and arrive at a peasants’ hut, where Navarre pays for lodging and retires for the night.

Until that moment, Navarre is accompanied by his black stallion and small hawk, but when night falls, a mysterious beautiful woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) appears and a black wolf roams the woods nearby, frightening Phillip and the peasants, until the beautiful lady calms it down. Morning comes and Phillip tells Navarre about the woman, thus becoming a kind of messenger between the two.

And Things Get Rough...

Unbeknownst to them, the guards are following the two and eventually they meet in an open field, where Navarre fights them and his hawk is hurt by an arrow. Navarre then, orders Phillip to take his hawk to the old monk Imperius (Leo McKern), who lives in a ruined monastery nearby.

Imperius receives the boy, and while they wait for the night to come, so that the monk can heal the hawk, he tells the true story of Navarre and his wife Isabeau to Phillip:

The Bishop of Aquila (John Wood) helplessly fell in love with her, and when Navarre and she got married, he decided to throw a spell on them. At day Isabeau would be a hawk and at night Navarre would be a wolf, so that they were forever together and forever apart. This spell could only be broken when an eclipse would happen and if the Bishop would be destroyed in that moment.

Night comes, Imperius takes the arrow from Isabeau’s shoulder, and heals her. Back in the Bishop’s Palace, he’s sleeping on his bed wrenching in the agony of nightmares, when he’s awaken for the arrival of a killer he hired to kill Navarre.

Navarre comes back in the morning and Imperius tells him about the possible breaking of the spell but he dismisses the old monk, saying that the only thing he aims at is taking the life of the bishop.

So the four of them go towards Aquila and in the evening when they are crossing snow-covered fields, Navarre in his wolf form, falls in a hole in a frozen lake and while Phillip tries to rescue him, he almost ends up drowning in the water and gets many deep scratches from Navarre.

Hours later, when dawn is near and Isabeau and the wolf are lying side by side, his transformation starts and for a second the lovers see each other in their human forms and almost touch each other before Isabeau’s transformation is completed and she flies away, as Navarre howls a terrible scream of pain.


Later on, they arrive at Aquila, and as night is close again they go to rest inside a stable. It is raining a lot, there’s some music being played nearby and Isabeau and Phillip decide to dance a little while Imperius sleeps, but moments later, they hear a strange noise and when Phillip opens the door, it’s the killer who’s there. 

Phillip is holding Navarre’s sword in his hand, but as it’s too heavy for him, he hardly can fight with it and when you think he’s going to be killed, the wolf jumps on the killer and ends his life.

Then morning comes, and while Imperius and the hawk stay behind, Navarre and Phillip go to the cathedral, where they intend to invade the mass and Navarre intends to kill the bishop.

Phillip enters the cathedral through an underground passage that leads to an opening on the floor. He makes his way out and goes to the hall’s doors so that he can open them up to Navarre. The knight then enters the hall on his horse and fights the actual Captain of the Bishop’s Guard, killing him.

All the other guard’s are afraid of him, so he goes undisturbed all the way up to the altar where the bishop is and the moment he’s going to kill him, the eclipse happens and Isabeau enters the hall as a woman and throws the hawk’s leather bands she used to wear on the bishop's face, when she turns, the bishop is about to kill her with his scepter but Navarre throws his sword into him and he dies at last.

So, here it is, I hope this summary made you curious enough to want to check out this movie, because it’s really very good. Whether you found good this idea of showing movies of other kinds but with Gothic elements on them, or not, please let us know! This site is, after all, made for you.

See you next month!

If you want to know more about the movie:

Ladyhawke Movie Information

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