Immediately after the wedding, Philippe is called for war and…. I am not the biggest fan of period costume dramas nor director Bertrand Tavernier but I was pleasantly surprised by The Princess of Montpensier.
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The film unfolds during the 16th Century conflict between the Catholics and Huguenots in France. Sidestepping the usual stuffiness of a period drama, Tavernier, breathes life into the story by dynamically capturing both the conflicts on the battlefield and in the ballrooms. I liked the scene where the maid brings news of intercourse to the newlyweds fathers Kind of wavers between feeling nicely realistic and a bit TV. Without him, it would be boring.
That's it. Not terrible but ultimately disappointing. It seems like it should be easy to make an entertaining movie set during the French Wars of Religion. At least, one that clears my exceptionally high level of forgiveness for any film set in the past.
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Unfortunately, this is not it. I absolutely should have been clued into the weakness of the film by the poster, which, yes, this is a film about the men who want to sleep with this woman, who actually I'd like if this were a movie about her and not about the horrible men except obv the Nice Guy in her life.
As the intricate psychological interplay with these men ebbs and flows, the princess finds herself constricted by the emotional minefield of her precarious position. Both physically and psychologically especially with its scenes of a wedding night as family spectacle , this film immerses us completely in that long-gone world. Chabannes has spent much of his life, apparently, as a tutor to higher nobility, and he now finds himself once again serving a former pupil, the upright and decent Philippe, the prince of Montpensier Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet.
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You will agree or enter a convent. A woman out of time who is troubled by contemporary concerns, Marie finds she must adjust as best she can to an age when women were chattel and whose thoughts no one cares to examine, let alone pay attention to.
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When Philippe goes back to the war, he leaves Marie in the care of his old mentor Chabannes, asking him to instruct her in arts and poetry. Rather than pursue a marriage with the brother of the man she loves, Marie agrees to the Montpensier match, puts Guise out of her mind, and dutifully serves her husband.
Sent off to war, the Prince de Montpensier asks his closest friend, the Comte de Chabannes, to look after his young wife. Marie develops a great fondness for the older Chabannes, who in turn falls in love with his charge. Both Guise and Marie realize that they still love each other; Anjou, too, falls in love with her, and Guise must carefully conceal his own feelings to avoid jeopardizing his fortunes at court.
Where her short text offers a bare narrative skeleton, the film provides detailed back-story. The most radical change to the story, however, concerns its denouement. In the film, after the prince has spent his anger upon Chabannes and his wife, Marie seeks out Guise still hiding in the next room, and they make passionate love. She then resolves to leave her husband definitively and take up with her lover. But when she arrives in Blois to announce the happy news, Guise rejects her. Consider Chabannes, who displays a density he does not possess in the short story.
In his humanity, wisdom, and religious skepticism, he is a kind of Michel de Montaigne figure as understood by many modern readers. However, gender represents the most significant — and intriguing — area in which Tavernier modernizes the story. The film works hard to portray Marie de Montpensier as a strong, independent woman. She fights her marriage with Montpensier, and must be pushed into it by force.
The Princess of Montpensier () - IMDb
Her resolution to leave her husband to take up with Henri de Guise is a deafening declaration of female emancipation. According to Tavernier, Madame de Lafayette invested her text with her own cultural sensibilities, that is, seventeenth-century values entirely out of phase with the century which she depicts.
Tavernier justifies his modifications as an exercise in historical excavation, an attempt to recover an authentic sixteenth-century historicity from an anachronism-riddled story. As he explained in an interview, his film does not have the princess die at the end, as in the story, which is a moralizing punishment.