June 14, 1995

Making History ‘Queen Margot’ Takes Realistic, But Entertaining Look At Past

Nathan Mauger Ferris
 

A film like “Queen Margot” can be most appreciated after seeing a film like “Braveheart.”

Although “Braveheart” is a fairly entertaining picture, it is basically an adrenaline-pumped action film with a healthy dash of romance. It doesn’t teach much of a history lesson, but does provide some excitement.

“Queen Margot,” however, teaches a little about the exploding tensions between Catholics and Protestants in 16th century France and takes a more realistic approach. The excitement comes not only out of bloody battles, but out of suspense and authenticity.

“Queen Margot” concerns itself with the events immediately following the marriage of Catholic Marguerite of Valois and Protestant Henri of Navarre. The marriage was arranged by Margot’s mother, Catherine, to smooth over the relationship between the Catholics and Protestants. But soon one side decides to revert to war, and this leads to the brutal St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, in which the Catholics killed some 6,000 Protestants.

And in the middle of it all is Margot, trying to save lives while searching for happiness.

Though it’s definitely not as drippingly romantic as the love story in “Braveheart,” “Queen Margot” does have its share of love, lust and sex. In addition to clearly illustrating Margot’s promiscuous habits, it seems that lust is one of the main motives for many of the characters.

Also unlike “Braveheart,” the violent scenes here are graphic, but not gratuitous, and they are not used to excite the audience. On “Braveheart” battlefields, glory and respect can be won by killing. But in “Queen Margot” the only hope is to stay alive, and hate fuels its battles.

As Margot, Isabelle Adjani is wonderful. While she doesn’t have much time during the first half of the movie to chronicle her transformation from an uncaring and unaccepting Protestant-hater to an awake individual, she does it smoothly and convincingly.

Backing her is an ensemble of supporting players who demand attention. Leading the list are Jean-Hugues Anglade (“La Femme Nikita” and “Killing Zoe”) as the Catholic King of France, Virna Lisi as his mother and Daniel Auteuil as Margot’s intelligent new husband.

The best thing “Queen Margot” has going for it is its big-budget realistic look at historical times. The costumes and sets do not look the least bit fake, and the script, acting and direction all back it up perfectly.

If you were annoyed by hokiness in “Braveheart,” this is a great follow-up. And standing alone, it still is an excellent film. But there’s no telling how long it will play in Spokane, so see it soon.

Grade: A


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