The Princess of Montpensier is set during an era of Catholic/Protestant reform in France.
Marie de Mézières (Mélanie Thierry), is a beautiful young aristocrat, who falls in love with Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel). De Guise is looked upon as a brash rebellious type by the other families. But, Marie’s father has promised her hand in marriage to the Prince of Montpensier (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet) to gain more political prestige. She is spirited away at once to the Montpensier’s castle, whilst the Prince and De Guise fight a long war alongside the Duke of Anjou (Raphaël Personnaz). Here she is left in the care of Count Chabannes (Lambert Wilson), an wise, aged nobleman who has experienced the atrocities of war. But as Marie comes in to the forefront upon the prince’s return, she finds herself embroiled in a bitter, political love triangle by virtue of her beauty and want away heart.
The film feels old or “classic” in it’s staging reminiscent of Dangerous Liaisons or the 1968 Romeo and Juliet. But, where it does intrigue is within its very complex character interaction, as the princess is contested over, as much as the war for the country’s own political values.
In Marie and Henri we have two people who share the same virtue of effortlessly being able to make others fall in love with them; and within this “enduring romance” lies questionable motive as the both assert their still undying passion upon their chance encounters. This is supported by the strong cast who are easily able to display passion and vigor.
The long running time feels rather arduous and someone dampens any impact of passion. Though it is relatively obvious that it is reflective of the passing time between encounters, but is counter intuitive to maintaing engagement.
The film manages to pull presumptions to the forefront in its finale and reveal what is actually an incredibly multifaceted turn of events. Throughout we are swept away with the tide of fleeting romance in what we believe to be a black and white situation of love, but turns out to be something which we actually know nothing of. It is a look, in the classic Greek sense, of the many interpretations of “Love” and though the ending elevates the film as a whole, it is weighed down by its unurgency to get to where it wants to be from the start.
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