Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Movie review "Henri IV" 2010 or, where have all the good history movies gone?

"Henri IV" is a 2010 German/French TV production inspired by Heinrich Mann’s book and perceived by many viewers as a historical movie.
Interested in 16th century France and having read a great deal on the subject, I can tell you this movie is nothing but fiction, or most of it. It is true that the characters existed and the events took place but their interpretation is far from reality.
Who’s to blame? Perhaps Heinrich Mann’s book, which is somehow misleading to many readers interested in following the destiny of Prince Henry up to his becoming king of France. The author has never been a historian, as far as I know, and didn’t even bother to consult trustworthy sources after he suddenly decided to write his fictionalized and syrupy novel. I have read it about 15 years ago.

"Henri IV" movie is a mere adaptation of the above mentioned book, plus some fictional digressions, which vexed me greatly. It’s hard to stand such a painful distortion of real facts especially since most people, who do not take the trouble of reading history, tend to appreciate movies as a means of educating their knowledge. A disastrous perspective for our generation.

Let’s reveal only a few science fiction details:
- Nostradamus himself predicts Henri’s future ascension to the throne of France. In fact, when Henri was only a child nobody knew that he would eventually become king of France, since Charles IX had 2 brothers and was too young to assume he would not have sons of his own. It is wrong to suppose that Henry of Navarre the child was already seen as a future king of France, that idea came later on, after 1585.
- I see no reason why Charles IX is played by such an old actor. He died at the age of 24 and by the moment his sister Margot got married to Henry, he was only 22. They make him behave like a madman, though he was not. Yes, he didn’t really show interest in political affairs (he would rather go hunting than rule the country) and was of a sickly constitution but it’s hard to imagine a king with his shirt torn off insanely screaming, wrangling and climbing tables in front of the entire court. Charles and his brothers were raised and educated in a royal and respectable family.
- As to his brother, Henry of Anjou (whose punk hairstyle amused me greatly), is totally portrayed as being short-minded, indifferent and irresponsible. His fat, stupid appearance, and gay manners, made me realize that the black legend compromising Henry III’s image for many centuries is still perpetuated nowadays, despite numerous scientific attempts to destroy it.
- Margot looks like a cloying whore (same as in "Queen Margot" played by Isabelle Adjani). Frankly speaking, she has never been a saint, but to suppose that she was publicly spanked by her brother is unacceptable, especially in such a distinguished family.
- As expected, Catherine of Medicis is described as mean, selfish, greedy for power, and a pain in the ass to her children. Heinrich Mann and Alexandre Dumas have both contributed to feeding this horrible myth about Queen Catherine, as well as many others for the past 5 centuries or so. I wonder when people would become aware of her brilliant mind and endless efforts to maintain peace in a country devastated by civil war.
- Too much meaningless sex
- Endless time lapses and wrong chronology
The first hour of the movie reminds me a lot of "Queen Margot" (1994), which I previously criticized on my blog as a big failure to reproduce even Dumas’ vision on St. Barthelemy events.

Any attempt to delve deeper into such a dispute is futile, mind-bogglingly silly and ridiculous. My idea is to point out that nothing in this movie is historically true, not even costumes, background, settings, situations, speeches, etc. It is pure cinematographic fiction.
So, do not let yourself guided astray by this interpretation of facts to assume that they happened this way in reality. Be wise enough to sift real facts from fiction.
The movie producers clearly deride most respectable historical figures of those times consciously/unconsciously sending a wrong message and feeding us with incorrect ideas.

Such cheesy productions must be counterbalanced by genuine historical adaptations, which are unfortunately waning these days. Most film makers seem to think producing good history movies is not worth the while: the audience is scarce and sales are less profitable. As a result, our generation is wading in ignorance of the past.

I am quite aware that my article might be strongly frowned upon by some movie-goers (who adore, by the way, "Queen Margot", "Alexander the Great" and probably "Troy" haha) but I am so bold as to reveal my true feelings, as I always do!


Anonymous said...

the movie did suck in all the ways you mention, but your need to pat you own back is annoying

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