The story centers on Leonide (Mira Sorvino), the Princess of Sparta. She occupies a throne that has been usurped by her father, when it belongs instead to a young man named Agis (Jay Rodan). One day, when Leonide spots Agis bathing in a lake, she falls deeply in love with him. She then comes up with a scheme to marry him. In doing so, Leonide gets what she wants, and he gets what is due to him because of his birthright. The problem, however, is that Agis is being raised by the enlightened philosopher Hermocrates (Ben Kingsley), and his sister, Leontine (Fiona Shaw), who have not only schooled the boy in Enlightenment principles, they've also taught him to hate the princess. With her maid by her side, Leonide disguises herself as a male student and verbally seduces the brother-and-sister pair in order to buy time to win the love of Agis.
Peploe brilliantly balances the comedy and cruelty in the play without losing the romantic spirit of the material. Mira Sorvino also shows a whole new side of carnal mischievousness. Leonide is a rationalist who may feel pangs of love, but she methodically uses reason as a tool to cause pain as well. Ben Kingsley as the pompously foolish Hermocrates gives one of his most enjoyable performances. He's also matched by Fiona Shaw as Leontine, whose preening is disguised by a show of self-deprecating charm. They make perfect targets of the Princess' scam. "The Triumph of Love" is a sublime comedy with an emotionally rich texture. Starring Mira Sorvino, Fiona Shaw, Ben Kingsley, Jay Rodan and Rachel Stirling. Directed by Clare Peploe. Written by Bernardo Bertolucci, Clare Peploe and Marilyn Goldin. Produced by Bernardo Bertolucci. A Paramount Classics release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for some nudity and sensuality. Running time: 107 min.