‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ review
By Sonam Kaloti, Arts Editor
In this column I review movies that are hugely popular in the Western world—ones which I haven’t seen before. This is a fresh and unbiased take on those classic films, without childhood nostalgia or rose-coloured glasses influencing my perspective.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is incredible—and terribly uncomfortable to watch. This classic Disney movie is about the hunchback bell ringer of the Notre Dame cathedral, Quasimodo (Tom Hulce), who is trapped in the tower by his evil master Frollo (Tony Jay). Frollo finds himself an admirer of gypsy Esmeralda (Demi Moore) who is uniquely stunning and charming. However, Frollo’s thoughts of Esmeralda are not pure whatsoever—he puts Esmeralda in a fun dilemma where she either becomes his sex slave, or she is burnt at the stake by him. Ah yes, classic Disney.
Putting the story aside for a moment, the entire film kept me enchanted throughout with the colours, animation, and score. Of course, those features are nothing new to a Disney film—but there was something special to this movie that’s not apparent in all Disney films. Perhaps it was the score, which featured a church choir with cathedral reverb— making already haunting scenes feel much more eerie. Or, it may have been the general “acid trip” feeling of the movie, which left one not really knowing what was going on, and thrown everywhere regardless. From Quasimodo’s insane parkour skills—jumping from pillar to pillar atop the cathedral—or the entirety of the festival of fools… because that whole scene was just insane. There were people breathing fire, a contest for who the ugliest person in the city was, and a strangely sexual performance by Esmeralda which turned into guards throwing rope and fruit at Quasimodo, seemingly trying to kill him with the noose and tomatoes.
Don’t even get me started on Quasimodo’s gargoyle friends he talked to throughout the movie, who turned out to be just hallucinations because he was so lonely. Yikes.
Back to the story though— “Hellfire” is a masterpiece. This song is the reason I wanted to watch this movie in the first place. “Regarded as one of the darkest and most complex Disney Villain songs of all time,” according to Genius, this song goes there. It features Frollo, a creepy old man with too much power, confessing his sinful lust for Esmeralda to the Virgin Mary, whilst priding himself on his virtue with, “It’s not my fault! I’m not to blame. It is the gypsy girl—the witch who sent this flame.”
Although Frollo said, “I’ll find her if I have to burn down all of Paris,” I didn’t expect that to be literal. He really did do that. Straight murdered masses of innocent people because of his lust.
Watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame was mostly just uncomfortable because it was too real. The movie features a creepy old man with too much power preying on a younger girl and blaming her for his attraction instead of taking personal responsibility. Well maybe Esmeralda shouldn’t have dressed like such a gypsy—she was asking for it. Sound familiar?
Because the movie touched on a huge issue and properly represented it in the utmost evil light, this film ranks high on my radar. Every aspect (especially the production) is amazing and I regret not having watched it until now.