Young Queen Margot finds herself trapped in an arranged marriage amidst a religious war between Catholics and Protestants. She hopes to escape with a new lover, but finds herself imprisoned by her powerful and ruthless family.
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"Queen Margot" is undoubtedly one of Dumas' most convoluted and intricately-plotted novels, a masterpiece populated by fascinating and flawed characters trapped in lives of greed, danger, and intrigue. This 9.5-hour-long Russian adaptation of the novel (trimmed down from a longer television broadcast) not only succeeds in translating the story from the page to the screen, but it does so with inventiveness. And, while the miniseries stands out in its own right, it compares very favorably to the mediocre 1994 French film version, which simplifies the story and characters considerably and puts sensationalism above quality writing and acting. All in all, this series is not only the best "Margot" film, but one of the best Dumas adaptations.
The story begins with the wedding of Charles IX's sister, Marguerite de Valois (Yevgeniya Dobrovolskaya), to the Protestant King Henri de Navarre (Dmitri Pevtsov), and unfolds as the marriage that was designed to bring peace to a country plagued by religious warfare forges and breaks alliances within the royal family, ultimately resulting in suffering. As Margot, her mother, her brothers, and her husband plot against or with each other, enter La Mole (Dmitri Kharatyan), a Protestant nobleman who has fallen in love with the queen, and Coconnas (the miniseries' producer, Sergei Zhigunov), his Catholic friend/foe. The relationships between Henri and Margot, Margot and La Mole, and La Mole and Coconnas lie at the heart of the story as each is created or destroyed by the ambitions, admiration, and conspiracies within the Louvre.
The casting isn't necessarily obvious a number of the characters don't resemble Dumas' descriptions but the actors play their parts to perfection. They don't just read lines from the book; the script adds to and even improves upon aspects of the novel. The characters at first appear as archetypes villains, heroes, sidekicks, minions but they soon become breathing, complex individuals with understandable motivations and desires. Dobrovolskaya's Margot thinks, manipulates, begs, struggles. She is seen at her strongest and her weakest, and, through it all, seems real. Pevtsov is also inspired; a character that could easily have become too sympathetic, Henri is charming, wily, fickle, ambitious, maybe even a touch ruthless. While there isn't a weak link in the cast, the true scene-stealers are Viktor Abolduyev as Margot's crafty and cowardly brother François, Zhigunov as the tragicomic Annibal de Coconnas, and, above all, Mikhail Yefremov as the sinister Charles.
Overall, this miniseries is a masterpiece worthy of the excellent novel from which it is adapted. The fact that it is a shortened version is undetectable. If you don't speak Russian, English subtitles are available. Anyone familiar with Russian films is probably used to funky subtitles enough not to be too bothered by the occasionally weird word choices and grammatical errors (Madame de Sauve is a "scoudrelly woman," Catherine de Médicis asks her perfumer, "Didn't you experimented?"); the mistakes aren't too distracting and the lines are never made incomprehensible by them. It's only a pity that this film isn't better distributed, because it is far better than the French version and deserving of much more attention and praise than it likely receives.
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