Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

02 Mar 2012

(Movie - 2001) Kate and Leopold, directed by: James Mangold;

(Reaction) Eternal Chivalry by: Patrick Shane Diaz

Kate and Leopold is a riveting love story, set in two different eras, centering on Kate and Leopold. The theme of the film may be centered on the love story, the difference of the characters that eventually lead into love, and the sacrifices people do for love.

Set in New York City, in both past and present times, the film uses the city and its massive difference in cliques, styles, types of people to mask the plot from the other people in the film from noticing the oddity that happens in the story. New York also is the perfect depiction of the modern world, as it is one of the most current and advanced cities in the world. It is a center of fashion, industry, science, etc., wherein it follows with the time, changing with the people in it, while keeping parts of the past, such as the buildings, etc.

Kate McKay is an advertising practitioner, a typical blue-collar American in lifestyle. She is a pretty woman who has her fair share in love and life. She lives in the present day, dealing with the normal problems of living a normal life. As a product of her seemingly destructive past in relationships, she is a sceptic in love, noting that chivalry is dead, and men are of evil nature when it comes to love, seeking only sex and nothing more.

Leopold is an English 1800s Duke of Albany living in New York, charged to be the successor of his uncle's estate. He is to marry a rich woman, so as to regain position, power and wealth that his family once had. Being a very innovative and smart man, he is an inventor, and as is revealed, will invent the elevator in the future years. He is textbook nobility, while having the ability to cope with the current time, even adding improvements to Kate's "futuristic" appliances. Leopold is the uniform depiction of a chivalrous man, as molded by his upbringing and time of existence.

Charlie is Kate's actor brother, who becomes close with Leopold. He is the depiction of a current man, later learning the trade of courtship from Leopold. Thinking that Leopold is an actor in "ancient" character, Charlie easily relates with Leopold. Being a minor character in the plot, Charlie depicts the bringing of the past practices into the present.

Stuart is Kate's ex-boyfriend who leads Leopold into the present and into her life. He acts the bridge of the plot, helping Leopold cope with the current time. Having gone into the past to follow Leopold, his ancestor, he in a way depicts knowing your past to know your future, and bringing the old ways back into the future.

Stuart proves that events are absolute, that events unfold the way they should. Going back to change something in the past usually leads to that outcome wished changed, with you as the catalyst. The brilliance in the plot occurred when Kate ended up as Leo's wife, his ancestor as well. It may seem off, yet very surreal that Stuart was with Kate and she ends up as his ancestor.

One irony in the story is that the character of Leopold fit in the modern time. He may have taken a while to get used to it, but in the end, his practices and attitude mixed with behaviour fit. He seemed like a well bred dreamy guy and not someone from another time. Moreover, when Kate went back in time to go after Leopold, ending up as the ancestor of Stuart, the irony was in the woman (Kate) chasing after and making changes for the man (Leopold). After the whole plot of Leopold using chivalry and charm on Kate, she ends up chasing him, employing a more modern way of courtship.

A good scene in the film depicts Leopold trying to understand the toaster, and in the process, made improvements on it, saying that the toaster had to be pushed on and a half times for bread to toast and not to burn, Moreover, he hinted that the General of Electric failed to fulfil his task of making a fully functional toaster. This scene depicts that the past, though not operating in the wavelength of the present, can adapt and improve our ways, reinforcing the motto "One must learn to look at the past to fully understand the future".

Another scene depicts Leopold being filmed for a butter commercial, speaking in his aristocratic tone. Kate uses this type of delivery since it is appealing, "dreamy". It further shows that people in the present treasure the past and its ways, looking for that feel of aristocratic ways and chivalry.

However, the past does not have all the good traits in societal interactions, for the past heavily used the fixed marriage concept, or marry someone you do not love to improve your family's wealth and societal status. The present day may not have the chivalry of the past, yet it has the freedom of who to love, something Leopold did not have in the past. Though sometimes still employed in the present, it is considered a violation of a person's free will, unlike in the past where it is accepted and done.

Some people choose the freedom in the present, some the chivalry of the past. The film tends to combine these two, using the fact that Kate freely chose to go after the man she loved into the past, while choosing to stay there and live in that era, employing both positive sides of the spectrum.

Times may change but the notions and expectations of courtship, as well as love and its course in one's life remains the same. Kate and Leopold may be from different times, yet the standards are the same, love was still applicable to both of them. Leopold was looking at a future with a wife from a set marriage, yet he got Kate, a mere commoner, but someone he loved. Kate gave up on love, and yet she got what she needed, a noble who'd sweep her off her feet.


Love transcends everything, time, place, etc. Chivalry may be dead, but that is not to say it cannot and shouldn't be brought back in the present.

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