The Princess of Montpensier

Melanie Thierry, Lambert Wilson, Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet, Gaspard Ulliel
Dir. Bertrand Tavernier

The turmoil of 16th Century France is the background to this story of a woman married off against her wishes for the sake of political ambition. Marie de Mezieres has eyes for her cousin Henri de Guise, but is forced into an arranged marriage with Phillipe de Montpensier.

The Catholic Protestant war doesn’t take long to drag both de Guise and de Montpensier away and Marie is left to the tutorship of the Count de Chabannes, a pacifist who has had enough murder and pillage. He doesn’t take long to fall for the beguiling Marie, as if her life isn’t complicated enough.

PRINCESS

Bertrand Tavernier is known for his workaholic attention to detail and goes to great lengths to recreate historical accuracy, expressed here by his use of a very young cast. With the exception of the Count de Chabonnes all the lead characters in this film were, in reality, only just out of their teens and waging war, signing treaties and generally up to their eyeballs in battlefield mud and gore. Anyone who advocates lowering the voting age for teenagers might do well to watch this film to see what the outcome might be!

The Princess of Montpensier is an odd film in that its pace is languid, even the battle scenes have a slight underinvested feel about them, but the look and character of the cinematography draw you in against your will, transporting you from one Machiavellian set up to another. Judging by the scenery filming could have taken place in the Trough of Bowland; cold and deciduous with a late autumn early winter desaturated look.

Equally desaturated is the performance of Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet as Phillipe de Montpensier. A youth lacking in charisma, he once looked up to the Count de Chabonnes and even understood his reasons for turning pacifist, but Ringuet always comes across as wanting to be in another film. Melanie Thierry and Lambert Wilson do their best to inject some life into the proceedings, but ultimately the film left me feeling Tavernier’s workaholic approach to film making might finally be catching up on him.

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