Big success in bookstores, the Metronome (then the Illustrated metronome) by Lorànt Deutsch is now adapted for television, on France 5, before a DVD release. While this guide to historic Paris has benefited from an astonishing leniency on the part of the media, despite a number of factual errors and an ideological orientation at the very least conservative, it will be interesting to see what gives its audiovisual adaptation by Fabrice Hourlier , the cost to the public service of which amounts to around 1 million euros. This Sunday is broadcast the first episode, "52 BC. J-C - 5th century: from Camulogen to Clovis ».
Summary of 1er episode of Metronome
In this episode, Lorànt Deutsch tells the story of Lutetia / Paris from 52 BC. J-C until 511 and the death of Clovis.
The episode begins with the conquest of Lucotecia (later Lutetia) by the Romans, including the battle of Grenelle, on what will become the Champ de Mars. Then follow the centuries and highlights, according to Deutsch: the peaceful second century (and the arenas of Lutetia); the third century more troubled and the role of Saint Denis in the spread of Christianity; the 4th century, the name "Paris" and the Emperor Julian; and finally the 5th century with the arrival of the Franks and Clovis.
The series is built around the interventions of Lorànt Deutsch, and digital reconstructions, with actors, of the different places and key moments in the history of Paris. The actor wanders in present-day Paris, but also in past Paris, thanks to green backgrounds allowing monuments to be embedded in their original form (or estimated as such). There would be a lot to say on this subject, as in most documentaries that use these techniques, but while overall one can appreciate the beauty of the reconstructions, one can only be doubtful about their historical fidelity. The arenas of Lutèce, for example, make the Stade de France look like a field of Division d'Honneur potatoes ...
The problem is, it gets even worse with the scenes being performed. First, the costumes and make-up of the actors: they are often quite ridiculous, and above all totally anachronistic! Thus, the Gauls, vociferating in the face of the Romans, sport their famous mustache and winged helmets as in the most beautiful photographs of the 19th century! As for the clearly visible glue of Saint Denis' beard ...
Historical approximations of Metronome
Without entering into a catalog of factual errors, in any event less shocking overall here than in the other episodes, one can question the rigor of Lorànt Deutsch in his (claimed) historian approach. Indeed, all in his desire to prove that the history of Paris and, by extension that of France, is in historical continuity, the actor allows himself a few anachronisms and sometimes curious personal opinions. For example, he sees in the Eiffel Tower "A monument to the glory of the Gallic warriors who fell at the Battle of Grenelle", while we are not even sure that the Champ de Mars is actually the site of the decisive battle… It evokes hackneyed historiographical clichés like "The barbarian invasions", is very imprecise on important points (the origin of the currency " Fluctuat NEC mergitur ", ...), allows himself embarrassing shortcuts (the Gallic defeat would have meant, according to him, "The death of an independent culture, of a whole way of life, of its beliefs and of its legends",…). As for the Lutéciennes, "They were shopping on the forum"... The period of Julian Emperor is in the midst of "parisianocentrism", since Lorànt Deutsch lends Julian's legionaries the desire to make Paris the center of the Empire: "Paris must replace Rome, and Julian must become the sole ruler of the whole Empire", or : "Julien became the emperor, and Paris the heart of the Empire" ! A "Parisianocentrism" that can be found in the evocation of the arenas of Lutèce, amphitheater "The richest, the most beautiful in all of Gaul" for Deutsch! It may mean forgetting Nîmes or Lyon a bit quickly ... As for Childeric who goes up to Valhalla ...
Chiefs, emperors, kings and saints
Like the book Metronome, the audiovisual version is clearly centered on the characters and on Christianity. The people are also mentioned, but not as a really determining factor in the history of the city.
The rulers first, with the Gallic Camulogene, then the emperors, including Julian, a little too easily shown as an almost "Parisian" Roman emperor. Obviously, Clovis, who ends the episode but "[Opens] a new story that continues to us." A somewhat strange vision that would like to make the Fifth Republic the descendant of the Merovingian kings ...
However, the stars are mostly the saints. And the staging, especially the music, makes it clear to us! As in the whole documentary, Lorànt Deutsch never uses the conditional, including when he mentions martyrdom or the miracles of saints! So, even if he does not go into detail, the fact that Saint Denis walked with his head under his arm from Montmartre to the abbey that bears his name, does not seem to give him any doubt! Just like the miracles of Saint Martin, Saint Marcel, or the role of Saint Geneviève (even if the Huns are forgotten). The tone, the music, the vocabulary (he often uses the "we", like "Our saint" about Denis, or for Geneviève: "His grave always offered to our devotion" ...) show genuine empathy and adherence to Christianity and its martyrs, which may come as a surprise in a historical documentary.
Notice of History for all
Needless to say, this episode, despite pretty pictures and some good ideas, did not convince us. It is located in the right line of the book that inspired him. That producers wanted to surf on the success of Metronome, and make a documentary to sell DVDs, why not? But that the public service and the major media have so blindly adhered to the project raises questions.
Review of episodes 3 and 4.
Read also To end with Lorànt Deutsch and the Metronome.
Metronome, directed by Fabrice Hourlier and commented by Lorànt Deutsch. Broadcast on France 5 at 4:45 p.m. on April 8, 15, 22 and 29, 2012. Available in double-DVD from April 18. See the France 5 site on the Metronome.
Thanks to Goliards for his help. Read his article here.