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Princess of Montpensier, The (2011)
Friday, April 15, 2011
Mélanie Thierry, Lambert Wilson, Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet, Gaspard Ulliel, Raphael Personnaz, Anatole de Bodinat, Eric Rulliat
Bertrand Tavernier, Jean Cosmos, Francois-Olivier Rousseau
Set in France in the 1500s, the story centers on a young aristocratic woman whose father forces her to marry a prince despite her love for a war hero.
Princess of Montpensier, The (2011) | Review
The Folly of Passion
Set in the 16th Century (and based on a novel from the 17th Century), The Princess of Montpensier is a beautifully-shot period romance. The story revolves around the beautiful Marie, heir to a great fortune. She has been promised to Henri, the Duc de Guise, whom she has grown up with and loves, but then a more politically beneficial match is arranged and she instead marries Philippe de Montpensier. Marie struggles with her place and her passions as the men in her life battle not only against Huguenots, but also strive for Marie's affection.
And it is not only these tw, who are taken by her beauty; she is the candle that all the moths hover around. Also attracted to her are Philippe's old tutor and mentor, the Comte de Chabannes, and the king's brother, the Duc d'Anjou. Chabannes is more mature. He has recently deserted from the war being fought between the Catholics and Protestants. He can see no reason for killing over matters of faith. He is intensely loyal to the Prince, and even though he falls in love with Marie, he will do nothing about it. D'Anjou is something of a power broker, and sees the value that Marie could be to her husband at court.
There is a key scene in which Marie is given an audience with the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici. Catherine is an avid astrologist and notes that Marie is torn between two planets, Saturn and Venus, which represent the powers of reason and passion. Philippe and Chabannes are the call for her to do what is reasonable. They rely on reason and duty in all their undertakings. Henri, is a passionate man—in love and in battle. He continually awakens the passionate side of Marie. But in the end, this reliance on passion is seen to be folly, just as the war between Catholics and Huguenots is portrayed in the film as folly.
Such period pieces often seem so foreign to life as we know it—the court politics, the on-again, off-again religious wars, the treatment of women as chattel. Yet, as I reflect on all these differences, I can't help but see the same dynamics that continue to fascinate us. In terms of the role of women, I think the TV show Mad Men gives us the same look at how women have struggled with their place and to find their voice in male-dominated societies. Consider also the office politics of Mad Men and compare those to the court politics of bygone centuries. Religious wars continue in various manifestations, and there are only a few who, like Chabannes, choose to walk away from such madness.
It would be taking things a bit too far to say that The Princess of Montpensier is a 15th Century equivalent of Mad Men, but I do think we can learn something from the comparison. In the biblical book of Proverbs, Wisdom and Folly are personified as two women. These women call out for suitors. The choice one makes between these women will determine happiness or sorrow in life. Isn't that similar to what we see in shows such as Mad Men with the siren call of wealth and immediate gratification? It is certainly the issue that confronts Marie. In time she will have to choose forever who she will give herself to. That choice will determine if she will ever find happiness.
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