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.