Superior period drama about the last days of one of the most famous tyrants in history.
Monsieur N., a 2003 film, was helmed by, of all people, Antoine De Caunes, famous in the UK for the late night show “Eurotrash”, a round up of all things trashy and exploitative, usually focussing on women with extremely large chests. It’s a surprise therefore to find that there is a lot more to him than that as he proves superbly in this movie.
Starring Philippe Torreton and Richard E Grant, this is the tale of the final days of Napoleon Bonaparte, adapted from a work by Rene Mansoir. It’s also a tale of two countries, England and France and the responses that the great dictator provoked from both.
Monsieur N. starts in 1816 with Napoleon and a few close and trusted supporters exiled to the island of St Helena but he is not going to be allowed to perish in peace as the new governor of the island, Hudson Lowe is determined that the British government will not have to fork out for such a costly prisoner for very long. The movie is driven by the mystery that still persists about Napoleon’s death and final resting place, examined in flash forward sequences and makes for a subtle and detailed narrative examination of one of the most famous figures in history.
The film was made in both French and English with the respective countrymen speaking their own language, which gives it an extra realism lacking in many of the stories of Napoleon, and also underlining the division between the two countries.
All of the performances are exceptional and very real, especially Torrenton as Napoleon himself, a very well judged interpretation of the script which brings life to a character all too often seen as a one dimensional tyrant.
This Napoleon is sensitive and well rounded, showing far more of the dimensions of the man’s character than usual and making him ultimately a very sympathetic figure.
The supporting cast also do well with Richard E Grant being a particular standout. Shot beautifully and acted subtly, this is a wonderful movie that is a cut above other historical fare.
A must see.