The year is 1816, and Napoleon, held prisoner by the British on the island of St. Helena, is telling the young English girl Betsy his life story. His meteoric rise to military prominence ...
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The scene is set during the French Restoration at the beginning of the 19th century. Jean Valjean, a galley slave who was sent to prison for stealing food, is now released after serving ... See full summary »
When Louis XVI summoned the Etats-Generaux, he unleashes a revolution that would change his country and cost his life. This is the story of one of the crucial points in the history of France, and Europe, divided into two parts.
Richard T. Heffron
Klaus Maria Brandauer,
The year is 1816, and Napoleon, held prisoner by the British on the island of St. Helena, is telling the young English girl Betsy his life story. His meteoric rise to military prominence begins with his victory over the Royalists in 1795, which is followed by campaigns in Italy and Egypt. He marries the young and capricious Josephine de Beauharnais, the love of his life, who unfortunately cannot bear him any children. After a coup d'état he seizes power in France and crowns himself Emperor of the French in 1804. After his decisive victory at Austerlitz, Napoleon reorganizes Europe and makes his relatives into princes and kings. Continuing resistance by the Spanish results in some initial losses, however. Meanwhile, Napoleon is increasingly fascinated by other women, including the Polish patriot Maria Walewska, who bears him a son. Napoleon intends to found an imperial dynasty, however, to strengthen his position. After divorcing Josephine, he marries the Austrian princess Marie-Luise,...Written by
In July 2003 dollars, the film costs $46,330,000 to make. See more »
All the battle scenes, intended to be a highlight of the series with significant numbers of soldiers presented, oddly and inaccurately show soldiers advancing slowly in short half-steps when in reality they marched at full stride. See more »
Shot simultaneously in French and English. For the French version, the French actors spoke in French, the rest recited their dialogues in English and were later dubbed by other actors. For the English version, the French actors repeated the same shots reciting the dialogues in English. See more »
It is probably pointless recommending or not recommending this series as there are two types of people that are going to buy this: The Napoleon nuts like me and the period drama people. The latter will be in their element as the domestic sets are both lavish and authentic. There are also some remarkable likenesses such as Josephine, Murat and Caulencourt.
On first viewing I was left a little cold. I thought that at last a substantial amount of time had been allocated to this, perhaps the greatest of all individual subjects. However, if there is one thing that any expert on the subject will tell you, it is that there is no way that you can even begin to condense this subject into 60 hours, let alone 6. The worst mistake that this film makes is attempting to replicate the battles themselves. The camera angles pan across large expanses revealing (at best) eight or nine hundred extras. All this whilst regular references are made to 20,000 losses on each side (Austerlitz, Eylau, Essling and especially Waterloo). Sometimes, it is almost laughable and cheapens the rest of the film. The makers would have been much better off by excluding any military action and just leaving it to innuendo after all, Borodino is just referred to by Caulencourt when in Moscow conversing with Murat.. Thank God they didn't try to replicate that terrible battle! So, the plus points: Napoleon: At first I thought that Clavier was miles off the mark. If, like me you have seen and were bowled over by Rod Steiger's rendition in Waterloo then this will get some getting used to. After all, Napoleon is a red-blooded Corsican genius, capable of flying off the handle at any time, exhausting his counterparts and friends alike. Not in this version. Yet, Clavier has one saving grace. He introduces a measured, human approach that we know Napoleon had to have had from time to time. Almost schizophrenic some might say (Megalomania is the preferred terminology). I don't prefer his interpretation of Napoleon's to Steiger, but it is warmer if not necessarily more Corsican. If we could introduce this to Steiger's approach you may have the perfect Napoleon.
The relationship between Napoleon and Josephine is also one of the better points of this series. Clavier's in-love out-of-love relationship is perfectly handled without the usual mushiness. Here is a relationship based on love, intensity, necessity and ultimately friendship and loss.
Finally, Caulencourt is dealt with in some depth, as is Fauche, Murat and Talleyrand. But where is Berthier, Bessieres, Augereau, Davout and Ney (who suddenly appears towards the end despite his Russian campaign heroics)? Holes? Yes. But unless we get someone with $500,000,000 willing to approach this subject with the endeavour it deserves then we are left with this kind of product. So overall, not too bad. Vive l'Emperor!
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