Henry of Navarre

Henry of Navarre


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Barbarity was rife throughout France in the 16th century, as religious wars raged between Catholics and Huguenots, culminating in the political coupling and arranged marriage between Henri of Navarre and the king's sister Margot. Henri (Julien Boisselier) was young and handsome. Margot (Armelle Deutsch) was headstrong and seductive. In bed, they were like wild cats, but this is not a remake of Patrice Chereau’s magnificent La Reine Margot. It is a story of power, deceit, treachery, courage, sex and murder.

At two-and-a-half hours the film is long and you begin to feel it during the final quarter. However, Henri’s life is so full and accomplished, its trials and tragedies so profound, that time is seldom wasted. The convoluted plotting within the French court is Machiavellian, orchestrated by the black widow, Catherine de Medici (Hannelore Hoger), mother of all evils and three sons, the cowardly king (Ulrich Noethen), his gay brother and the ill one who dies.

Copy picture

Henri spends most of his young life fighting and so yearns for peace. Catherine also desires an end to the wars, not only because they are expensive but because they are unsuccessful. She charms the Protestant conqueror from the rural south to embrace the sophistication of the Parisian court with his ravishing bride, while scheming behind his back a fearful massacre on St Bartholomew's Day, during which 30,000 Huguenots, including Henri’s wedding guests, are butchered.

The film is as rich in imagery as it is diverse in character. The action sequences are brutal and close to the body. The plot twists and dives under convenient stereotypes, avoiding the obvious, such as giving Henri a superstar persona, rather than presenting him as a thoughtful, intelligent, contradictory, flawed, flirtatious defender of justice and religious freedom.

“Let reason govern.”

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2010
Share this with others on...
French historical epic about the ascent of King Henry IV
Amazon link

Director: Jo Baier

Writer: Jo Baier, based on the novel by Heinrich Mann

Starring: Julien Boisselier, Hannelore Hoger, Armelle Deutsch, Chloe Stefani, Ulrich Noethen, Roger Casamajor, Gabriela Maria Schmeide, Wotan Wilke Mohring, Frank Kessler, Devid Striesow, Kristo Ferkic, Fritz Marquardt

Year: 2010

Runtime: 155 minutes

Country: Germany, France, Czech Republic, Spain


EIFF 2010

Search database: