Robespierre, a powerful figure in the French Revolution and the subsequent Reign of Terror, is desperately looking for his black book, a death list of those marked by him for the guillotine and a key to help him eventually emerge as the country's dictator. He hopes his agents will recover it, but, if it falls in to the wrong hands, it would mean his political ruin and death.Written by
In a conversation with D'Aubigny, Robespierre states that he turned 36 years old in the month of May. However, during their Reign of Terror, the French revolutionaries changed many things, including the calendar. They discarded the traditional Gregorian calendar (January, February, etc.) in favor of a new, decimal-based system, and called it the French Republican Calendar . There were still 12 months, but now each month had 3 10-day weeks (for 30 days) and all of the months were re-named. What would have been the month of "May" in the Gregorian calendar was changed to "Prairial" in the new calendar. ("Prairial" translates to prairie or meadow.)
So being a good revolutionary, Robespierre would have used this new calendar and not the old one when referring to dates. He should have said he "turned 36 years old in Prairial" and not "May." See more »
This film, beautifully wrought (cinematographer John Alton must be responsible for much of this), makes me long to return to the days of black and white films and the stunning art that can be made in shades of gray.
From the first shot of a tiny distant rider silhouetted against massive lowering storm clouds, we are pulled into the mood of the film. The smallness of the rider is the smallness of the protagonist in the face of the overpowering events of the French Revolution. The use of light and shadow, the low shots and unusual closeups of actors: all of this made me feel I was in the hands of a master of his art. My breath was literally taken away by many of these images.
The story is serviceable and the acting quite good, but what sticks with me is the imagery of the film, the beauty of it.
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