Very unequally treated in the cinema, the French Revolution is a high-risk exercise for a fictional work. Currently on the big screen, "A people and their king"by Pierre Schoeller takes up the challenge. With, let's say it from the start, more or less success.
The people speak
In 1789, a people entered into revolution. Let's listen to him. He has things to tell us. "A people and its king" intersects the destinies of men and women of the people, and of historical figures. Their meeting place is the very young National Assembly. At the heart of history, there is the fate of the King and the emergence of the Republic ...
In a sometimes too rapid succession of paintings, this film offers a reading that is intended to be balanced and educational of the main events of the Revolution, from the capture of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 to the execution of the king in early 1793, which leads to the advent of the First Republic. The people are here skillfully represented in a colorful and diverse manner, without sinking into caricature. The National Assembly, perfectly reconstituted, is the place where all hopes and passions converge. There we are given a crash course in history, well documented, but somewhat indigestible. Louis XVI, impeccably interpreted, would undoubtedly have deserved a more complete treatment for the better to mirror an era which is ending in favor of a new era. A new era that begins with a big symbolic string, when at the beginning of the film light pierces the darkness that continually reigned over a suburb of Paris as the destruction of the Bastille begins ...
It was a risky bet to tell "the big story" through the prism of the "little one", especially in such a short time. The first, let us repeat it rather well documented, is only an overview (and sometimes a little too theatrical). The second, centered around the family (in the broad sense) of a Parisian glassblower is rather refreshing but there is no time to become attached and believe in it. Time is what this film lacks for such a big chunk of French history, and it feels frustrating to have seen a ... two hour trailer. There was however, if only for the quality of the historical work, reconstructions as well as the distribution, material to provide for another format, that of a series.
For the moment we will therefore continue to prefer Wajda's film (Danton, 1983), which remains a reference although dealing with the following period of the Terror, see even the diptych The French Revolution (Robert Enrico, 1989), which despite its many flaws, at least had the merit of giving depth and an epic breath that is sorely lacking in A people and their king.
A people and their king, a film by Pierre Schoeller, in theaters on September 26, 2018.