Ever After

Inciting Event: Danielle discovers Prince Henry stealing her father’s horse, and she attacks him (not yet realizing who he is) by throwing apples at him and knocking him to the ground. When he reveals his identity, she lets him have the horse and he pays her twenty gold francs for her silence.

Obviously, in a story about a relationship, the meeting of the two relational characters is the perfect Inciting Event. But note that they don’t actually connect in this scene. They meet, but there is nothing yet holding them to each other—and thus to the main conflict. They could conceivably have each walked away from this encounter and never seen each other again. They won’t be fully enmeshed in the relationship or the conflict until the First Plot Point.

First Plot Point: Danielle masquerades as a courtier, wearing one of her stepsister’s gowns, and uses Henry’s francs to free her faithful servant, who has been sold to pay her stepmother’s taxes. While at the palace, she again encounters Henry when he speaks up on her behalf and helps her convince the jailor to release the servant. Henry doesn’t recognize her and is immediately intrigued by her strange views. When he presses her for her name, she tells him she’s a countess and gives him her mother’s name.

Here, we have the nice symbolism of Danielle literally stepping into the new world of the courtiers’ (however briefly) even as she also steps into her new role as Countess Nicole de Lancret and her relationship with Henry.

It would have been nice if the primary conflict (the freeing of the servant) had come full circle impacted some other part of the story, but this is still an effective First Plot Point.

First Pinch Point: I was surprised upon re-watching this movie (one of my favorites) to discover how fluid the structure is. Almost all of the plot points are a very light touch, and many of them are woven throughout multiple scenes. This is an extremely difficult thing to pull off without the story feeling scattered and unstructured, but this movie manages it very well for the most part.

Here at the First Pinch Point, the major turning point occurs when Danielle accidentally meets Henry again while she’s out swimming. The pinch arrives a few scenes later in a double whammy: First, the evil Monsieur Le Pieu propositions Danielle, setting up his role in the Climax. Second, Danielle’s nasty stepsister Marguerite manages to get Henry’s attention at Henry’s tennis match—and subsequently introduces him to her servants, nearly unmasking Danielle’s charade.

Midpoint: Danielle finally agrees to an intentional outing with Henry (versus their accidental prior meetings, in which she has been very defensive and reactionary). He takes her a monastery, where she inspires him with her passion about life. They are then attacked by gypsies. Danielle outfoxes them and saves Henry’s life.

This is the turning point in their relationship. This is where Danielle finally allows herself to be “caught” by Henry’s dogged pursuit. She admits she likes him and begins returning his affection. It is also after this series of scenes that her attitude toward her stepmother and stepsisters show a marked change: she stops “taking it” and starts fighting back against their tyranny and cruelty.

Second Pinch Point: Rodmilla, Danielle’s stepmother, discovers Danielle’s deception and locks her in the cellar. Henry believes Rodmilla’s lie that Danielle/Nicole is engaged to a Belgian and has left France. In despair, he agrees to accept his father’s proposed marriage to a Spanish princess, whom Henry has never met. This is a wonderfully strong pinch point that flexes the powers of the antagonistic forces to their utmost. In some stories, this would be strong enough to act as the Third Plot Point, but note that in comparison to what follows the characters are not brought to their lowest moment. They do seem to have lost everything here, but they have not yet been betrayed by each other.

Third Plot Point: Danielle escapes the cellar and attends the masque ball, where she intends to tell Henry the truth. But her stepmother interferes, and Henry is mortified to learn that Danielle was the servant girl who assaulted him with apples in the beginning. Feeling betrayed, he “feeds her to the wolves,” and she flees in tears.

Climax: After his marriage to the Spanish princess proves a bust (turns out she loves a commoner too), Henry discovers Rodmilla has sold Danielle to Monsieur Le Pieu. He rushes off to save her, only to have his rescue end up being irrelevant, as Danielle has already freed herself.

This is the weakest part of the story. Although allowing Danielle to save herself is certainly a nice gesture, it ends up creating a very anticlimactic feeling, since Henry’s goal becomes entirely. Extraneous. Worse, the threat of the villainous Le Peu isn’t well setup. His only purpose in the story is to be nasty in this one scene.

Climactic Moment: Henry apologizes and asks Danielle to marry him.

Resolution: After Henry and Danielle have married, the king punishes the stepmother and stepsister. Danielle speaks for them and has their sentence mitigated from transportation to servitude.

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