82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Boobs than Battles.
Although this film is not a bad costume drama, it does suffer in comparison with the superior "La Reine Margot" that another reviewer has already mentioned and which covers the same historical period. The film has been made in the same style as recent TV series like "The Tudors" and "Spartacus" with more action between the sheets than on the battlefield. Those more...
Published on 21 July 2011 by Bob Salter
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A barely mitigated disaster...
I am afraid that I will have to both agree and disagree to some extent with many of the previous reviewers. I do agree that "La Reine Margot" (1994) from Patrice Chéreau was better by far than this film. However, the latter covers (or tries to cover) the whole life of Henri of Bourbon, who became King of Navarre in 1572 after the death of his mother Jeanne...
Published on 25 Jun. 2012 by JPS
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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Boobs than Battles.,
Although this film is not a bad costume drama, it does suffer in comparison with the superior "La Reine Margot" that another reviewer has already mentioned and which covers the same historical period. The film has been made in the same style as recent TV series like "The Tudors" and "Spartacus" with more action between the sheets than on the battlefield. Those more interested in shapely breasts than convincing battle scenes are well catered for. The threatened Ridley Scott style battle scenes do not quite manage to materialise. Wishful thinking perhaps on the part of the distributors! The politics and chicanery of the times are certainly well catered for with shennanigans that are hard to keep up with. What are a few poisonings and accidental cutting of throats whilst shaving in the grand scheme of things. Power and long life do not seem to make good bed companions in this film, which is probably a fair reflection of those turbulent times.
Despite the aforementioned digs, I quite enjoyed this film. It is certainly overlong at nearly two and a half hours and is the sort of film that may have been better in a TV series format. That said this French speaking movie is pretty well acted and seems to have pretty good attention to historical detail, although I admit I am no expert in that field. As soon as the Medici's come into the story you know there is going to be some nasty Machiavellian like manouevering, and so there is. I warmed to this film in the same way that I did to "The Tudors" and "Spartacus". It is a bit like secretly enjoying the "News of the World" whilst your respectable front is "The Telegraph". A sort of guilty pleasure! Of course the very shapely actresses may have some bearing on all this, or should I say baring. After watching this film it will come as no surprise to find out why we have so many Huguenot names in our British lineage. Compared with a lot of recent historical fare this is not a bad watch. I watched the blu-ray version which was excellent quality.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A barely mitigated disaster...,
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I am afraid that I will have to both agree and disagree to some extent with many of the previous reviewers. I do agree that "La Reine Margot" (1994) from Patrice Chéreau was better by far than this film. However, the latter covers (or tries to cover) the whole life of Henri of Bourbon, who became King of Navarre in 1572 after the death of his mother Jeanne d'Albret, and then King of France after the assassination of Henri III, the last living son of Catherine of Medici and Henri II. The former focuses on a single episode - the massacre of the Saint Barthélemy - and what happened a few months before and a few months afterwards.
Neither film is historically accurate, but Henry of Navarre is - by far - the worst of the two. There are several reasons for this. "Le Reine Margot" is based on the historical novel of Alexandre Dumas, the French Conn Inggulden of his time, if I can make such a comparison. In other words, it is based on a piece of historical fiction where the background is generally accurate even if some elements - such as the role played by La Mole (the Hughenot hero who really existed, by the way) - are mostly the result of the author's imagination. I have no problem whatsoever here, since "La Reine Margot" does not pretend to be historically accurate. On the other hand, Henry of Navarre is portrayed as being his "incredible true story" and this is where the problems begin.
First, the scene with Nostradamus coming up with his prophesy is made up. Nostradamus, at the time, lived in Paris and worked for Queen Catherine of Medici. That he would have travelled across the whole of France to see the son of his patron's mortal ennemy (Jeanne d'Albret) and make his prophesy is somewhat unlikely, to put it mildly. Then there is the fact that Jeanne d'Albret was poisoned, allegedly by a pair of gloves that Catherine had given her. This is, at least, what the Hughenots believed at the time, including Henry. There is nothing about this in the film, neither is there anything about Catherine's (rather well deserved) reputation of using poison to get rid of her opponents. Why did Henry and the Hughenots nevertheless accept to come to Paris despite their (very strong) reservations? This had partly to do with Admiral de Coligny's very good relations with Charles IX, who called him "his father", partly with the fact that the King had given them all safe conduct for them to attend Henry's weeding with Marguerite de Valois (the "Reine Margot" of the other film) and partly because anyway the Hughenots wanted and needed peace for they were losing the war against the Catholics. Apart from the weeding celebrations, the other elements, which had little to do about noble interests, are simply not mentioned. The piece on the actual massacre of the Saint Bartholomew is more or less ok. Marguerite de Valois did, in reality obtain Henry's life from both Charles IX, who was circumvented by his mother, and from Catherine and Henri did escape the massacre by taking refuge in the King's appartments. It is very, very doubtful that he went searching for his friends across the streets of Paris and much more likely that he never left the Louvre that night or the next morning. Henri de Guise, the main organizer and perpetrator of the massacre, got what he wanted: the life of Coligny whom he rended resposable for the assassination of his own father (François de Guise) almost ten years before. This is also omitted, despite being quite revealing because it was essentially vengeance, or a blood feud which was made worse because the three forces (the Hughenots, the Guise, and Catherine and Anjou) were battling each other to establish their dominance over the weak and influençable Charles IX. Catherine allied herself with Guise because she feared that Coligny's influence over the King, her son, would replace hers.
Then there is the aftermath. Henri of Navarre was a prisoner in the Louvre. He did escape, but I seem to remember that it was before the death of Charles IX (and whith his help) rather than after his death two years later in 1574. Then you had a few years of desultory warfare with the South Ouest of France and Languedoc being largely - but not entirely - dominated by the Hughenots and the rest of the country in the hands of either Henri III or of Henri Duke of Guise and his brothers (the Duke of Mayenne, who makes a fleeting appearance in the film, and the Cardinal de Guise, which we do not even hear about). In 1580, Henri III (former Duke of Anjou) sends Joyeuse, one of his favorites, who, by the way, was one of the best swordsmen of the Kingdom and not only the vain and effeminate dandy that his portrayed to be in the film, has to send the royal army after Henry of Navarre who had been making inroads. This largely happened under the pressure of the Guise faction who were accusing the King of going "soft" on the Hughenots and of being incapable of beating them. Joyeuse lost the battle at Courtras and got himself killed. Then there was a further period of eight years which are entirely ommited from the film until the year 1588 when Guise organized an insurrection and Paris rebelled in favor of his "Ligue", chased the King from Paris and obliged him to take refufe at Blois when he started to gather an army to retake his capital. As Henry of Navarre was also around with his army, Henry III and Catherine gave safe conducts to the Guise Henry and the Cardinal) to come to Blois where they had them assassinated. So, contrary to what the film shows, Guise was not killed in Paris and Catherine, who was fatally ill at the time, helped out her favorite son one last time by providing Guise with one of her ladies in waiting for the night before, to make sure that he would not change his mind and flee. Then there are a number of other episodes missing. In particular, the battles that Henry of Navarre had to fight after the assassination of Henri III (this piece, at least, is in the film) at Arques and at Ivry against the army of the League lead by Mayenne, the last of hte Guise brothers. Later on, after Henri had become King (and become a Catholic again), there were a number of conspiracies to assassinate him, all of which were more or less backed by Spanish gold, including one by Biron, whom Henry had made a marshall.
There are some good pieces, however, particularly towards the end of the film. One such is Henry's love relationship with Gabrielle d'Estrée and, more generally, his marriage with Mary of Medici, for her huge dowry at a time when the King's coffers were empty, the country impoverished by 30 years of on and off civil war and money was needed to fight against Spain. Gabrielle was poisoned, as shown in the film and there were quite a few people who had an interest in doing the deed, although the culprits were never publicly named.
Another claim made by some reviewers about this film is that it is "well acted". The least that can be said here is that some actors have be asked to play roles for which they were not entirely suitable. Charles IX, for instance, was 22 at the time of the Saint Bartholomew massacre. Henry of Navarre was 19. Neither actor, whatever their qualities, looks the part. Even worse, the actor impersonating Anjou/Henri III makes him look like a coward and a whimp: he was neither. The actors playing Henri de Guise and Catherine de Medici do not even look physically alike their characters (neither does Charles the Ninth, by the way). Julien Boisselier as Henry of Navarre is better, but he seems to be in his mid thirties to mid fourties all through the film (Henry was 57 when he was kniffed by Ravaillac) and, apart from a bit of grey and white at the temples, he simply does not age during the film. Daniel Auteuil playing Henry of Navarre in "La Reine Margot" also did not look like being 19. However, Guise, Anjou, King Charles IX and Catherine were all much better in "La Reine Margot".
Amusingly, the "boobs" pieces are perhaps among those that may be the most accurate although, even there, Henry of Navarre's appetites seem to have largely developed after the massacre of the Saint Bathelémy, rather than before. The scene of Henry looking under the skirts of paysant girls in echange of a coin is, of course, made up. Note also that the nobles at the time had rather loose morals, although the Hughenots perhaps somewhat less than the Catholics. Henri de Guise was also known as being rather over fond of the ladies, for instance, and the two Henries were far from being the only ones. As another reviewer mentioned, even if somewhat inelegangly, Marguerite de Valois (the "Reine Margot") was a bit of a slut, buth then she had excuses: her brothers were not exactly pure little flowers and there were at least rumours that all three of them (including the youngest, François Duke of Alençon) had had sex with her, or even that they had raped her. Anyway, she was the mistress of Henri de Guise just before she got (very unwillingly) married to Henry of Navarre. As for Gabrielle (and all of the other noble mistresses of Henry of Navarre which are not mentioned in the film), she was, at least initially, in for what she could get out from the King: money, titles etc..., although, after a while, there might have been mutual love between the two. There certainly was on Henry's side. He may have developed some affection for Marguerite of Valois also, at least initially, although he did lock her up and never forgave her for knowing about the St Barthelemy massacre and not warning him in advance. He, rather understantably and unsurprisingly, felt that he could nver trust her again. This is something that the film shows rather well. Henry's relationship with Mary of Medici was not a happy one, as also well shown in the film. However, that the Florentine princess would chase him around and hit him in his mistress' room is somewhat difficult to believe, to put it mildly. What is correct, however, is that Henry delayed her coronation for a long time, and was assassinated shortly after it had happened. Hence the film's suggestion that she might have had something to do with it, but nothing has ever been proven and there was a rather large number of other powerful people who could have been behind the plot anyway.
Given all this, I am afraid that I cannot share the other reviewers' enthusiasm for this film. I did not like it and I therefore cannot really recommend it. A pity, because it could have been much, much better...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bedrooms than battles but still rather good,
This is a lavish tale of the life of Henry the Huguenot Prince of Navarre (Julien Boisselier), who goes on to become the King of France. It starts with the early life of Henri and includes a visit from Nostradamus, who predicts Henry for great things - well he would wouldn't he, always showing off like that. The problem is that the little kingdom of Navarre in South West France is protestant, the King who holds power in Paris is devoutly Catholic. As has been the case throughout history this leads to war.
Henri is driven more by his mothers ambition, his early motivations coming from association with the peasants and a gift for the Gallic use of his tongue (and I don't mean oration). The King of France, Charles IX played with excessive verve by Ulrich Noether (Himmler from `Downfall) is also a puppet who is controlled by his nasty mum, the one Catherine de Medici (Hannelore Hoger). She is the power behind the throne and sets about an alliance with Navarre that will be sealed by the marriage of Henri to her wayward and rather slutty daughter, Margot. Henri jumps at the chance for more bedroom adventures and so takes to his new role with gusto. There is to be quite a bit of `gusto' there after especially when he meets his true love. That is the very beautiful Gabrielle d'Estrees (Chloe -I don't mind getting my kit off- Stefani).
This is a long tale and was originally a German mini series with some co production from France, hence the mix of German and French actors. Some of the French is therefore dubbed, but I did not really notice and the rest is a mix of French, Italian and Latin. There is marvellous attention to detail with lovely touches like folk letting their pigs snout in the filth of the Paris streets. There is a large cast and more plot twists than a Victorian melodrama, but this is based on recorded history and so it all hangs together rather well. There are some over the top performances, but generally it is all well above average. Where it loses (Deutsh) Marks (rubbish pun) is on the battle scenes, I am quite sure there would have been more men on both sides for these major `battles'. Also there is one battle where we view it from inside a tent, now that is really scraping the barrel for money saving in a film and did spoil things a bit. This though is not an action film, but more a story of political and religious intrigue as well as tolerance, love and betrayal. There is a fair amount of blood letting but it is non gratuitous as this was made for TV.
Director Jo Baier has done a good job and managed to hold my attention for the entire run of 157 minutes, but I did watch in two sittings and that might have helped. However if you like a costume, history based film then you really can't go wrong with this truly European offering.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Above average period film,
A German made film (originally released as a miniseries) about the life of the 16th century's Henri (or Henry) IV of France, one of the crucial kings in the French Wars of religion (by one count, Henry changed religions four times during his life between Catholicism and Protestantism). Solid and interesting, just a bit overlong at two hours and a half, it has both French actors and Germans actors dubbed in French (I didn't care much about this, though perhaps some French native speakers would). Medieval and early Modern history can be very complicated (the personal gets involved with the political, as the main political leaders tend to be relatives as well) but if you pay attention the various political plots are reasonably well explained in the film. On the minus side, the movie could have benefited from a more charismatic lead than Julien Boisselier as Henry. And Ulrich Noethen (who played Himmler in Downfall) outrageously overacts as Charles IX, one of Henry's predecessors. But the beautiful Chloe Stefani is lovely as Henry's mistress, Gabrielle d'Estrées (none more so when she appears nude, as she does frequently here). And Hannelore Hoger is suitably evil as queen Catharina de Medicis, a major plotter against Henry.
The production values are reasonably good, though as in many other historical films, battles are not very credible when it seems to involve the fight of dozens of people, instead of thousands (films like these should consider using computer generated imagery more to give modern audiences the feel of a large battle).
The same subject matter was covered in La Reine Margot, a French film released in the 1990s, starring Isabelle Adjani as Marguerite de Valois (in Henri, Margot is played as a semi hysterical woman by Armelle Deutsch). I saw La Reine Margot at the time it was released, but I really don't remember a lot about it, except that it was a much stylized affair; Henri is a much more down to earth film.
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Henry of Navarre,
In late 16th-century France, Catholics and Protestant (Huguenots) were at war. Henry of Navarre is Protestant and all his wants is peace between both waring factions. When the king of France dies and leaves no heirs, the next in line to be king is Henry and finally he will be able to fulfil his dream of uniting France, but that is only the start of his problems as he has to defend his country against the invading Spanish forces and traitors within.
I have always liked Historical dramas and I really enjoyed this film from start to finish. As with some films that are based on true stories the can become a little boring and long winded but thankfully this doesn't.
The directing by Jo Baier is great and he keeps the film following at a nice pace and he creates two very well made battle sequences and few other action scenes to keep the viewer interested.
The acting is all very good and believable and I have to say the performance by Julien Boisselier as Henry is fantastic and the best in the entire film, but there is good support from Chloé Stefani as his devoted partner and Roger Casamajor as his loyal advisor.
The score by Hans Zimmer and Henry Jackman is a decent score but it won't linger in your memory like the scores for Gladiator, King Arthur etc.
Overall I'd say this is a perfect film for anyone who likes historical dramas and I had never even heard of Henry of Navarre before I watched this but now I want to know more.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre,
Well crafted and goodlooking but lacking in focus. The longer the movie went on the more it felt like it just showed fragments of the Henrys life making me feel more and more disconnected from it. It's a problem that is common in historical biographies trying to capture a entire very dramatic life in just a movie. The battlescenes were ok but not much to talk about since they only took up a very small part of the movie.
Overall an ok movie but not really anything special.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good costume romp,
This almost delivers what it says on the box, but the disc itself is a bare bones one, the audio set-up is French 2.0 or French 5.1, Yep....it's all in FRENCH [which is mentioned on the back of the box, but not on internet sites] so beware.....although it is subtitled. I don't speak French but I soon got into the subtitles and they actually did not overly spoil the film, which at 148 minutes is quite long, but it only seemed like a normal 90 minute film, which shows that it maintains a good pace throughout, never becoming boring.
Like most 'True Stories', full-on historical accuracy is not always achieved, but it tends to omit more facts than it distorts, so does not fare badly from an historical perspective. What it does fall down on is that it assumes we all know alot about Henry [of course we do I hear you shout!] but for those of us who don't, the film doesn't give little time pointers, dates and that kind of thing, so you don't realise that the main events actually span more than 4 decades. Nor do you realise Henry 'stayed' at the Louvre Palace in paris for around 4 years, you tend to get the impression it's a few weeks at most.
What the film does do is deliver on the 'brutal' action sequences, feelings of treachery, and that 'he courted death, he courted Desire, all for freedom of Faith'. Although the general themes mentioned are true and most personalities seem true to character, and the costumes and locations are quite good, many scenes have been added for character dramatisation [and often seem a little rediculous]. The desire and lust of the time are well catered for and with the musical score in places it seems reminicant of HBO's Rome dramatisation, but with some full frontal nudity that is not mentioned although the 15 rating does mention 'one scene of sexual violence' which actually borders on the 'adult' sado masochistic theme.
All in all this is a film to recommend if you like your historical sword and costume style dramas with a slight 'adult' edge. You never know you might even learn a bit about French history...I did.
Overall a decent movie that might inspire you to find out more
5.0 out of 5 stars History lives!,
This review is from: Henry Of Navarre (DVD)
A wonderful portrayal of this period of history, which was always a bit of a mystery to me. The characters are believable and the filming realistic, making history live.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars,
Great movie well worth having in your collection
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliant,
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A true masterpiece of a film on henry 4 , well worth the money i paid,would recomend to all you history lovers,will certainly watch again..
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Henry of Navarre [Blu-ray] by Jo Baier (Blu-ray - 2011)
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