One Nation, One King | Chicago Reader

One Nation, One King

For viewers uninformed about the French Revolution, this drama covering the early years of the seminal uprising offers an adequate history lesson, although it's more like a plodding two-hour lecture from a droning teacher than an eye-opener delivered by a radical substitute. Writer-director Pierre Schoeller (The Minister) packs in a host of historical events, beginning just after the people's takeover of the Bastille fortress in 1789 and culminating in the execution of King Louis XVI in 1793, but the progress is sluggish. Famous speeches, flashes of violence, and political turning points are weirdly unenergetic and barely dissimilar from scenes of Parisian washerwomen singing by the Seine and ruddy-faced townsfolk conversing by candlelight. A focus on fictional characters, including a young man and woman who fall in love against the backdrop of their rebellion, is less distracting than the insertion of real-life revolutionaries like Maximilien Robespierre and Jean-Paul Marat, who might as well be talking paper dolls for the screen time and character development they get. The film looks splendid; if only its golden glow and impressive costumes had contributed to something more exciting. In French with subtitles.

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