A romance novel brought to vibrant life, The Princess of
Montpensier is a sweeping drama set against the backdrop of war-torn, sixteenth-century
France. Catherine de Medici reigns, and it’s a time of warfare between the
Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots). Our heroine, Marie de Mezieres, is a
beautiful young aristocrat promised to the Prince of Montpensier, a young man
who she doesn’t love. The marriage is part of a bargain between her father and
his neighbor. Sent off to war, the Prince asks his trusted adviser, an older
nobleman named the Comte de Chabannes, to be Marie’s adviser, and Chabannes falls
in love with her. But she is
passionately in love with the rakish, brutal Duke de Guise. The pot really gets
boiling when the future king of France, the Duke d’Anjou, falls for her, too.
Marie is lovely and intelligent, but also very young, willful and a bit vain.
Her head is turned by the power of her youth and beauty over this gaggle of
powerful men, but she is very much in a man’s world, and do any of these men
really love her or do they just see her as a prize to be won? Oblivious to the
pitfalls, she sails like a beautiful swan to her destiny.
The castles, the
scenery, and the costumes are all simply fabulous, and the acting topnotch. I’m not
usually a fan of battle scenes, but the recreations of sixteenth-century
warfare in this movie are fascinating. Even the sword fights were something
special. Distinguished French director Bernard Tavernier (interview) brings a wonderful freshness of vision to this long ago world. The characters are young people living
life at a fever pitch, and their energy gallops and surges through the movie,
propelling it to a dramatic finale.