The 1982 version is a really good depiction of Frollo but it’s lacking in a few areas of his characters. This is one of the few film versions where Frollo is a priest however he doesn’t practice alchemy at all. Instead he’s a pretty by the book religious sort, spouting God when ever he can. But he starts off well, he adopts Quasimodo as an act of charity and he seems godly and pious which is great counter-point to his downfall later (not much later mind you ^_~ ).
However, the way this movie handles his relationship with Esmeralda is weird. First off, Frollo never sees Esmeralda dancing. I’m going to repeat that, Frollo never sees Esmeralda dancing. That is a HUGE oversight. Her free-spirited dancing and radiance is what captured him. Instead he sees her being arrested for dancing and is enchanted. It’s not too far-off but it’s just wrong for both characters. Although I will get more into Esmeralda and her “dancing” when we get to her.
Frollo is also more forceful towards her. When Frollo is a judge this force makes a level of sense but as Priest the approach-avoid conflict should be part of this dynamic with Esmeralda. In this version he lets her off-the-hook for dancing, which is apparently a no-no. And the when she is arrested again she is brought to him for his consent to take her to Bastille (I don’t know why this would happen). However he offers her sanctuary and she goes along with it. He brings her to a room where he makes attempt for sex. She runs off and Quasimodo tries to bring her back. So in the course of a few hours Frollo goes though all the moments that in the books took him months of suffering to reach.
Also he tries to buy Esmeralda from Gringoire for 40 gold crowns. I’m not sure how much that would be today because to my understanding a crown is an English silver coin. But it probably was a sizable amount. However Frollo offering to buy is quite silly but at least the scene is alluded to again when Gringoire is trying to get Frollo to help him save Esmeralda so I overlook the absurdity of then scene.
Let’s talk about his looks. Derek Jacobi makes a great Frollo but that wig, that wig makes him look like a dork. Jacobi’s Frollo may have the most hair of any Frollo, which considering the character is bald with tuffs of hair isn’t a good thing. It’s just 100% dork salad bowl cut. Also he doesn’t have that angular austere look that Frollo should have.
However, despite all that this version tweaks and weirdness, there is jail scene where Frollo bares his soul to her. Is it perfect? No, the scene has its flaws and is not as powerful as the book. But its there and that is more than most of the other versions have.
All in all the 82 version of Frollo is commendable. It didn’t get all the facets of his complex character but it tries and does fine job communicating it. I think the credit has to given to Jacobi for his portrayal because he really works to sell this Frollo. So it’s an almost a fantastic depiction but not quite.
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