Dec 14, 2007

Video Review: The French Revolution - Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

A&E Home Video, 2005, 100 minutes

I missed the History Channel's debut of the feature-length documentary The French Revolution when it debuted on cable in 2005, and I have to admit I might have been dissuaded by the promotional advertisements, which suggested that the film emphasized the bloodiness of the revolutionary years.

Yet the film performs an admirable service in providing a depiction of the French Revolution that is accesible to general viewers, while approaching the topic with an eye toward scholarly merit. Interspersed throughout the dramatic reenactments are interviews with some of the leading historians of revolutionary France, such as William Doyle and Sarah Maza.

True, the film contains its share of inaccuraices and oversimplifications, such as the insistence by director Doug Shultz to keep the focus on such larger-than-life figures as Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien Robespierre. In addition, the film ignores some of the less obvious causes of the French Revolution, such as social contradicitions between a semi-feudal aristocracy and the rising wealthy urban bourgeoisie.

The film, however, excels in recounting the major events of the Revolution, and provides viewers unfamiliar with the period a solid overview of revolutionary France. I would recommend this DVD to a general audience, and I think the film would work well in upper-level high school classrooms and survey-level college courses. The violence depicted in the film, though, means that the History Channel's The French Revolution might not be suitable for younger audiences.


mud_rake said...

Do you think that we Americans will ever muster enough courage to replicate the scene, that painting by Eugène Delacroix, of the people rising up against the tyrants who are now running our government?

microdot said...

No, the spineless wimps......

historymike said...

Nah, I think Americans are too fat, too lazy, and too glued to the television to revolt.

Let us starve first, and then it might be a different story. Nothing like a hundred-fold increase in basic foodstuffs to spark a revolution.