“The Princess of Montpensier” is a costume romantic drama, from Bertrand Tavernier, and set in the 1500s. The fight over the princess’ favors reminds us of what much of classical poetry and literature has observed: “wars have been fought over the favors of a woman.”
This is an era that damns the men, even the kingdom and dooms her. Marie (Mélanie Thierry) is torn between two men, two cousins’ love (unrelated to her). One she wants, Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel). The other, who she doesn’t, Prince de Montpensier, (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet) but her father does – for politics and property. He coerces her into marrying the prince, but the prince is too young and too immature to be a good match for his newly arranged wife.
This will be showing at Landmark Theatres’ Edina Theater for a week from Aprill 22nd.
This princess’ life and the story become more fraught when we see that all the men who spend a lot of time around the princess are enchanted by her, succombing to her assets. The prince’s mentor and tutor, the Comte de Chabannes (Lambert Wilson) a gentleman, warrior and scholar – a rarity. And the prince’s commander, Duc d’Anjou (Raphael Personnaz), also vies for Marie. While the Comte is deliberate about this, showing his maturity, the Duc is younger, impulsive and urgent (or just lusty) about it.
This is one of those “if only” stories, where you notice that, if not for one road taken, there’d be none of this trouble – but also this intricate story, this romantic and political tumult and suspense wouldn’t interest us.
An exchange tells a lot about the princess’ and the prince’s bond: on their way into his castle…
He asks “When will you love me?”
She says, “When you order me to?”
–If only she didn’t cave in to her dad.
–If only women hadn’t been considered chattel and beasts of burden then. And head-strong women were such oddities as to be thought mad.
The most interesting subplot belongs to the best-drawn supporting character, the Comte de Chabannes; he’s a warrior turned pacifist. He laid down his long sword after having killed a very vulnerable woman by accident, but in the heat of a fight.
The romantic and political intrigues are complex to a Shakespearian level. More than a few shades of truths and lies push Marie, her husband, her tutor and the Comte away from one another – but mostly her.
The beautiful colors used in the costumes and photography overall draw our attention, but the plot, the performances and the plotting over love and lust command that attention. Those scenic colors are incidental to the great characters and the ways in which their stories clash with one anothers’.
See this film!
The big problem: the more than two hour sitting might make you antsy, even though the story’s great. Also, if you want sword fights, serious ones from this, you might find the few in this to be pale and shallow.