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La révolution française (1989)

A history of the French Revolution from the decision of the king to convene the Etats-Generaux in 1789 in order to deal with France's debt problem. The first part of the movie tells the ... See full summary »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marianne Basler ...
Jean-François Stévenin ...
L'envoyé du Pape (segment "Anées Lumière, Les")
Abbé Maury (segment "Années Lumière, Les")
Michel Duchaussoy ...


A history of the French Revolution from the decision of the king to convene the Etats-Generaux in 1789 in order to deal with France's debt problem. The first part of the movie tells the story from 1789 until August 10, 1792 (when the King Louis XVI lost all his authority and was put in prison). The second part carries the story through the end of the terror in 1794, including the deaths by guillotine of Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Danton, and Desmoulins. Written by Erika Grams <erika@email.unc.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History | Thriller | War

Parents Guide:




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Release Date:

25 October 1989 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The French Revolution  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (part 1) | (part 2)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Former french President Nicolas Sarkozy appears a few seconds as a "Tiers Etat" member in "Les années Lumière" See more »


The guillotined bodies were obviously human-sized props. As soon the guillotine decapitated the head, there should have been blood squirting. See more »


Camille Desmoulins: [Danton has just called Robespierre a eunuch] Well, how did it go?
Georges-Jacques Danton: I could have been more diplomatic.
See more »


Hymne à la Liberté
Music and Lyrics by Georges Delerue
Performed by Jessye Norman, soprano
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

This is THE best film on la revolution francaise
14 March 2003 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It took me over 2 years to actually find this movie (well, they're two parts actually) on tape and it was definitely worth it. I'd seen it on TV when travelling in Europe but remembered it only vaguely...all I knew was that it impressed me tremendously.

OK, so the first part, "Les annees lumieres", focuses more on the privileged classes during the Revolution and how 1789 comes to be...LaFayette, Mirabeau, and so on. Most importantly, we get acquainted with our three "protagonists" of sorts -- Danton, Robespierre, and Desmoulins.

The yummy parts are actually in the second part called "Les Annees Terribles". Here Heffron masterfully focuses on the triumvirate of power centered around the main characters and how their ideologies distance them from one another. I don't want to get into too much detail, but the dynamics (especially between Danton and Robespierre) are not only cinematically superb but also historically accurate. It should be noted that this isn't some boring historical costume soap-opera...

What makes this film (especially the second part) so memorable and vivid in my eyes are the performances. First, German film legend Klaus-Maria Brandauer portrays Danton in a complex and yet very charming manner. He's masculine, powerful, but also tender. This multidimensional portrayal of Danton is something Gerard Depardieu lacked in "Danton", but I'll forgive him. Second, Francois Cluzet does a great job with Camille Desmoulins. He just needs a hug. Lastly, the best performance in the entire film came from the incomparable Andrzej Seweryn as Robespierre. It was a refreshing take on someone usually shown as a bloodthirsty, asexual tyrant. Seweryn delicately balances Robespierre's almost naive yet uncompromising belief in "virtue" with his empty personal life. Here the man behind the Reign of Terror is just that: a man. A man who is conflicted between personal ties and what he believes is best for the people. And when these three excellent performances are meshed together with a great script, we get the best movie on the period ever. If you can find it, definitely see it, c'est le meilleur. Vive la revolution!

**UPDATE** I'VE BEEN GETTING TONS OF EMAILS ON WHERE TO BUY THIS IN THE USA. THE ONLY PLACE IS 'VERSION FRANCAISE', BASED IN BETHESDA, MD. Their website is "www.francevision.com" and they have it (still only) in VHS.

Hope this helps!!

25 of 27 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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