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Historically interesting, beautifully photographed and well acted, but the message is a bit heavy.
There is a lot to say in favor of this mini-series. It concerns an interesting part of the European colonial history, i.e. the pursuits of France to get influence in colonial Brazil. A brother and a sister (the latter in a boy's disguise) travel from France to Brazil in a ship with a party of Maltese Knights, who's admiral dreams of a land where Catholics and protestants can live in peace together. Just and Colombe hope to find their father (also a Maltese knight) in Brazil, but once there, they learn that he is dead and then they have to cope with surviving and winning the sympathy of the admiral who at first sees them as a nuisance.
The series is filmed on location and the photography is beautiful, at times almost like some episode of National Geographic. The whole production has a very realistic feel to it, with much attention for authentic details. And the acting, at least of the major characters, is fine. All this having said, there are some flaws to mention too. While the pace of the first episode is high, with the dangerous ocean-passage, the first encounters with the local Indians and all kinds of turmoil's and fighting in the French quarter, this more or less sags-in in the second and last episode, where everyone holds long monologues and the emphasis seems to lie on religious and human rights aspects. In the end it turns out a bit as a (politically correct) message that's hammered-in: against slavery, against religious bigotry, for freedom of mind and conscience, etcetera. Here it all could have used a little bit more restraint.
The script has in my opinion - some other flaws in respect to realism. I just don't buy it that a young woman can live in a boy's disguise on a small vessel, totally cramped with men (mostly soldiers!) for the whole voyage to South America (many weeks surely) without being found-out. I mean, how about all these guys sleeping together, washing, peeing, etc.?? Furthermore all the different factions on the Brazilian island and mainland (several rivaling Indian tribes and the same with the Europeans) were quite confusing, since everyone more or less looks the same. And the ultimate twist in the story, to save Just's and Colombe's day and supply some happy ending to the story, was a bit too out-of-the-blue for my taste.
Stellan Skarsgard as admiral Villegagnon does a fine job, he's the center of the story and delivers a realistic and sincere portrayal of a harsh but just man with noble intentions, who gradually sees his ideals crumble on account of the lack of discipline, greed and bigotry that invariably surrounds him. The other central characters are brother Just and sister Colombe. Of these two Théo Frilet as Just is the best: he has a great screen-presence, with an energetic buoyancy, but also with remarkable acting-skills, he is totally convincing in the variety of emotions he has to go through, like his anger when witnessing injustice or his grief when hearing of his sisters death. And on top of this all, he is also very good-looking! Juliette Lamboley as Colombe had the misfortune to have to walk around half of the series disguised as a young boy, with unbecoming breeches and a hairdo like someone cut it with a blunt pruning-knife; and the other half she has to appear as one of the local Indian women, half naked, dyed rusty-red from top to bottom, and with an even sillier hairdo. She's probably beautiful but, alas, we never got to see it. Apart from her puppy-like cuteness as a boy, she didn't touch or convince me in either part.
To sum it all up: worthwhile to watch, especially the first episode, with some fine acting and visually beautiful. Oh, and a nice touch in the end: when the credits already roll by, the camera pans out from where the story took place to a birds-view from high above, and then gradually the contours of modern Rio the Janeiro appear. Impressive and in some weird way humbling.
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