Thursday, 17 July 2014

Queen Margot (1994)

This film opens with an opulent wedding and the revelry that follows it, then descends into a brutal orgy of killing.  This is the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre; an orchestrated wave of violence against French Huguenots (Protestants) by the Catholic majority.  It is also the grand set piece of the film, a shocking and unrelenting assault that remains with you well after the film has moved on.  Certainly, when I first saw this film over a decade ago, it was the part that I best remembered.

As fine (if unpleasant) a piece of film-making as it is though, the massacre also ties into the movie's biggest flaw: once it is done, two-thirds of the movie still remain, and they're simply not as memorable as that first act.

Don't get me wrong, there is still plenty going on, from the efforts of the King's mother to murder Henri of Navarre - the man she fears will take her son's throne - to the plans of Henri's followers to spirit him and his wife out of the King's clutches.

Henri's wife is the titular Margot, played by the luminescent Isabelle Adjani.  Margot is a Catholic, and her relationship with the Huguenot Henri is a reluctant one.  But having been forced to marry him, she works to preserve her husband's life.  This seems to come from a mixture of reluctant admiration for his comparatively ethical behaviour, and a belief that it would be a sin for her to do otherwise.

None of which stops her (or Henri) from taking lovers.

This is a well-staged costumed drama.  It's violence and sexuality will mean it is not to all tastes, and the lower-key plotting of the later parts of the film did not hold my interest so well on this second viewing as they did on the first, but if you've got an interest in one of the more turbulent periods of French history, it is worth seeing.

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