For some reason I always circle back to historical drama. Even though I have always been largely disappointed by the trials and tribulations depicted by these well-meaning directors and actors, I seem to have some sort of amnesia and go back to the genre again and again. I keep thinking that this one will be good. This one will give me something beyond the sex, ridiculous killings and wooden characters but it never does. Instead I slog through the overly long running times feeling like I just witnessed a history lecture by one of the most boring teachers of all time. This introduction is just the long way of saying that I disliked Queen Margot.
Queen Margot is about a Catholic princess in the French court who is married to a Protestant in order to smooth over relations between the two religious factions. Protestants and Catholics were a lot like the Israelis and the Palestinians of today. They share the same geographical location and some of the same beliefs but they view each other as two religions that simply can’t get along. Instead of summits in the old days there were marriages to put a dirty bandage on things that can be easily ripped off. This bandage was ripped off almost from the beginning of the story. Queen Margot’s marriage to Henri de Navarre (who is king of a different state but is still sort of French I guess? I was kind of confused on that point. But anyway that is why she is Queen.) is just plain inconvenient to her because she loves having as many lovers as possible and all of them are Catholic. At one point in the film she goes out trolling and has sex with a random man in the alley way (who ends up being Protestant duh duh DUH!) because she just is sooo over sexed. Her mother who basically runs the country of France (Catherine de Medici of the famous Italian family.) conspires against Queen Margot’s husband and pits her sons against each other for what seems like sport. This all culminates in the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre where thousands of Protestants are killed and Henri is imprisoned with his wife again for some reason that escapes me. Queen Margot then develops a plan to escape with her lover (the one from the alley way) and it gets foiled more than once. Lots of fighting and arguing and killing ensues until it comes to an end.
Okay so disliked is a strong word. Mostly I was indifferent to it. There were some great visual moments, some great acting moments but the sum of these did not make a great film. Unfortunately I am not French so I didn’t have as much emotional connection to these events that a French person would have. I was only hazily aware of these conflicts having been pretty widespread at this time. So when they have characters appear on the screen for the first time, I do not automatically understand who they are. For instance Queen Margot’s brothers are introduced as seemingly lovers to her. They embrace her on her wedding night and ask if she is going to abandon them. We have no context for this and can only assume that they are just notches in her sex belt. Only later did I realize that this person is plotting against her even though they are related is the same person that embraced her that night. This happens again and again to the many characters in the film. I also had a problem with the villainous casting of both Catherine de Medici and Queen Margot. Although they very well may have been exactly the way they were portrayed here, I highly doubt it. Queen Margot was portrayed as a promiscuous harpie that would go out trolling if she was denied sex for even one night. She only wore breast heaving dresses and red. She consoled the men in her life by giving them sex. In stark contrast, Catherine de Medici was portrayed as an evil shrew. A Queen Elizabeth I prototype, she was conniving and withholding on her love. She twisted the evil deeds she did into the evil deeds of others. She was portrayed very well by Virna Lisi but it doesn’t correct the fact that there was something wrong with the characterization of her. All the while the men of the picture were all portrayed as incredibly noble or naive. It was so frustrating that I almost turned off the film. I kind of wish I had.