Sunday, 13 March 2011

La Reine Margot - Queen Margot

1994 by Patrice Chereau

16th Century France is torn between the Catholics and Protestants. King Charles is a puppet, behaves like a semi lunatic, between the power struggles of Queen Catherine, a Catholic, and Coligny, a protestant, who is increasing his control over the king. Queen believes a political marriage between Margaret - Margot, her daughter and King Henri of Navarre (protestant) would bridge the divides. The marriage is done with, against the wishes of Margot who is well known for her sexual adventures, which will prompt her even to the streets of Paris looking for extra ordinary men. Even after the wedding, Margot tells him this wedding does not compel her to sleep with him. During the feast Margot is still searching for other men amongst the guests whereas Henry is attracted to another girl in the family. There are issues even in the feast because of the religous sects. Margot sends off Henry from her suite, and the secret invitee to her suite is not happy about her converstation with Henry and walks out. She is without any man for the night, so queen Margot goes out to the street and meets a charming man La Mole.

Queen Catherine has ordered for a secret killing of Coligny to gain back her influence on her son, the King. She and her two younger sons force the King to order a war on the Protestants, fearing a backlash from Protestants because of the assassination attempt on Coligny. That  night about 6000 protestants are killed in the streets of Paris, Coligny too. La Mole, should have been killed but is saved by Margot.

Henri is like in a house arrest but with the help of La Mole, Margot tries to help him escape. In the first attempt, during a royal hunt, instead of escaping, Henri saves the king from a wild Boar attack. The King who had only just signed an order to kill Henri, before setting out for the Hunt, realises that even his brothers, who just watched him being attacked by the Boar only seeks his death, and he has a true friend in Henri. Back in the castle, he saves Henri from the assassination plan and even introduces him to his mistress. Margot also saves Henri from yet another murder attempt by the Queen and her brothers. Margot is now seen more as a traitor by the Queen and her brothers. There is yet another plan to poison Henri, but it is the King who is poisoned instead. King Charles is sure about his slow death, and helps Henri to escape but does not want Margot to leave with him.

Back in Navarre, Henri plans to bring back Margot and appoints La Mole for the mission. However La Mole is caught and his execution is ordered. Margot realises that the only way to save La Mole is to plead to the king, who inspite of being in deadly pain, right in front of death, doesnt help her and have his last breath. Margot collects the head of La Mole from the executioner and escapes to Navarre.

The movie is based on the 1845 novel by Alexandre Dumas. I am not sure I well explained the plot above. The movie has many sub plots like the love between Margot and La Mole, the enemity between La Mole and one Catholic killer in the night of the massacre, both ending up seriously injured and are being taken care of by the Palace executioner who helps La Mole to escape Paris, but on his return their enmity turns to a strong friendship, the terrific political dramas involving King Charles, Queen Catherine and his brothers, the special hate-love married life between Henri and Margot and so on.

This is really an epic of a movie. So much passion, so much intensity, its difficult to explain. I felt like watching the movie once again immediately when it was over. Each and every kind of human emotions and expressions, whatever it may be, is out there in its best. I have to say this movie has everything, but it is still not a popular entertainer. This movie is a great piece of dramatic art. I was so moved and touched by the movie that I really want to meet Patrice Chereau, the director. He is an extra ordinary genius to have planned and conceived this movie. May it be the wedding scene in the beginning, that shocking wedding feast, the massacre, the relationships of Margot with Henry and La Mole, the hunting scenes, the drama between Queen and the King on the death bed, or that final scene in the castle where Margot is just about to be raped by her brothers and cousins, he has brilliantly managed to keep us on the edge of the seat.

Cinematography is more than brilliant or beautiful. There is a particular shot, where Margot and La Mole makes love in the outskirts of Paris, I cannot think about any better frame of a love making scene. There are so many scenes that I could talk about, but this one really stood out for its novelty. So are all the technical aspects in this movie and especially the costumes. All the actors have been brilliant, but we will be haunted by Margot (Isabelle Adjani), La Mole (Vincent Perez), Henri (Danielle Auteuil), King Charles (Jean Hughes Anglade) and Queen Catherine (Virna Lisi). Even amidst all this tense drama Danielle Auteuil will make us laugh in that scene where he eats with the King, at his mistress' place, by his brilliant expressions.

I feel like talking and talking about this, also because I understood many things about the royalty in those days. Even Lunatics can be King, even brothers would rape sisters or have relations with them that even a mother would not mind just watching the same. Death is everywhere. Anything can happen to anybody if there is a wrong idea in the minds of a supreme royal member. Was really surprised to see this scene when the royal astrologer predicts to the queen,  the future of her sons, by opening and examining the brain of a dead. Royalty means no privacy, nothing like  morality or humanity or common sense and there is a sword above your head that you can be killed anytime.

I have to appreciate the sincerity of the French in being able to look back at one of the darkest periods in their history. They were part of the swathing violence perpetrated in the name of God and they are able to look back at it and bring out movies like this. In India, this is impossible. Either the movie will not be allowed to be made, or it will be badly censored or they will make sure nobody will see such movies, like in the case of the very few brave movies about the Gujarat pogrom. And the case with Hollywood is even funny, they wouldn't make any movies at all opposing the general thoughts and beliefs of their government or majority or the powerful.

La Reine Margot is an excitingly brilliant account of History which is a must watch, if you like movies.

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