Not to proselytize for Netflix, but they have refined their film categories to include excellent sub-categories for “Period Pieces” and “Royalty,” to the delight of this History Lady. First up under the “Royalty” queue for me was Le Princesse de Montpensier, a story about love and jealousy set in civil war-ridden France in 1567.
Against the background of religious wars is the story of French noblewoman Marie de Mezieres. Marie is infatuated with her cousin, Henri, Duc de Guise yet is given in an arranged marriage to Philippe, Prince de Montpensier. At first she is reconciled to the marriage and settles into life in rural France where she is tutored by Philippe’s old teacher – Francois, Count de Chabannes – learning to read, write and studying philosophy. In the process, Chabannes develops an unrequited love her. nd, in a film where everyone desires her, no one really loves her except Chabannes – whose love proves to be the truest of all.
Marie and her husband go to Court, where jealousy, rivalry, and lust force her into a corner and some difficult decisions about her life and her marriage. Her choice, while not completely surprising, leads her to a new life. But frankly, I struggled with the ending, wanting more for Marie than exile and solitude.
What I love about French period films (Seraphine, Tous les Matins du Monde and La Reine Margot are some of my favorites) is their pace – it is slower and more thoughtful than many US—or even UK—dramas, allowing a respite from action to consider the character’s inner conflict.
This film has incredibly beautiful costumes and set design – authentic to the period, and the location shoots are in exquisite country (no CGI here!). The acting is overall very good–except for the role of Philippe. Coupled with a nice glass or two of Merlot, it’s a good evening’s entertainment.
Le Princess de Montpensier
• Director: Bertrand Tavernier
Stars: Mélanie Thierry (Marie), Lambert Wilson (Chabannes) and Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet (Philippe), Gaspard Ulliel (Henri) and Raphaël Personnaz (Duc de Anjou)