(Review originally written at 16 October 2007)

Even though Abel Gance have made lots of innovating and masterful movies and I have the biggest respect for him and his movies, I'm not one of his biggest fans, mostly because his movies are extremely long but they are also really heavy to watch. "Napoléon" is however a great exception and is a very entertaining movie to watch, since there is always a lot happening and of course the actual story of Napoléon Bonaparte is an absolutely compelling and historically interesting one.

The Napoléon Bonaparte has always captured the imagination of lots of people over the world, also that of film makers. Throughout the movie making history lots of version of the Napoléon story have been made, with also some well acclaimed actors in the lead roles. Still non of them really matches up to this extremely well constructed and shot movie.

The movie begins at Napoléon's youth and end with his Italian Campaign. It showed how he gained all of its power, his most famous battles and actions till that point. But it most importantly shows Napoléon as a human, rather than a historical character, with family, friends. love and emotions. It therefor works also effective as a good biopic.

The movie is filled with some early and multiple split-screen effects and other interesting and unusual movie making effects. Abel Gance much have really had fun experimenting with all those movie technique present in this movie. Of course the movie also features all of the usual ingredients such as the typical fast paced and cut together Gance style of editing. Further more the movie also features lost of moving camera-shots to enhance some of the sequences and its effect and to put us right into the action during some of the sequences. Even the snowball fight in the beginning of the movie with all the kids is spectacular to watch because of these movie-making techniques and approach.

Visaully the movie is also great. They picked some nice scenery for the backdrops of this movie. And of course also all of the grand looking sets and consumes are fine looking and seem to be true to the era.

If you can blame the movie for one thing is that it perhaps too much romanticizes elements and events and the actual character of Napoléon. They portray the character as a great national hero. But this is just the sort of stuff people wanted to see in movies. It would take lots of decades before actual 'true' and also criticizing biographic movies would be made. Also of course the movie is French, so who can really blame them for romanticizing their most famous and important citizen. This is a pretty nationalistic movie but it's not really that bad all, although Napoléon sailing with a French flag as a sail is perhaps a bit too over-the-top, unless this really occurred, which I highly doubt. The movie also only concentrates on the glory days of Napoléon, so no failed invasion of Russia or Waterloo in this one. And no exile and death on Saint-Helena. But after watching already this film for 4 hours, you don't really want to see all of those things anymore. Gance originally intended this movie to be the first part of a total of six movies concentrating on the life of Napoléon Bonaparte. Unfortunately he never raised the money to make the other movies. It's the reason why this movie still leaves a sort of an incomplete feeling.

Still no other Napoléon movies is a real match to this movie.


About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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