Home Entertainment Napoleon review: Ridley Scott’s biography of the French emperor has a tender heart and a rough edge

Napoleon review: Ridley Scott’s biography of the French emperor has a tender heart and a rough edge

Napoleon review: Ridley Scott’s biography of the French emperor has a tender heart and a rough edge


The biography of Napoleon Bonaparte, the 19th-century French king, written by Ridley Scott, is a love tale. Napoleon (Joaquin Phoenix) as well as his first wife Josephine (Vanessa Kirby) constitute a pair of star-crossed lovers who are divided by his lust for power but united by a desire to be authentically themselves. Theirs is more of a cautionary tale than a tale of unending love.

Joaquin Phoenix was seen portraying Emperor Napoleon and Vanessa Kirby’s as Julia

(Also read: Napoleon: Before you hear his new song featuring Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby, watch these five Ridley Scott films.)

It’s not Ridley’s first tryst with the Napoleonic Wars

Ridley Scott is no stranger to Napoleonic France. The Duellists (1977), a historical drama, marked the director’s directorial debut and even brought him the best debut prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Along with Napoleon, he travels from tributary to common stream, but he also makes sure to declare his support for peace.

The film begins with Marie Antoinette’s guillotine execution.The French jeers him as he stands proudly facing certain death. A clear image of his head being severed is shown to us, with the officer displaying the deceased head in his palm for public inspection. The oppressed people celebrate the toppling of the throne while upbeat music plays in the background. However, Napoleon is the only one with a handsome face.

He isn’t shown to be a cruel conqueror who enjoys wreaking havoc and killing. But he is blinded by his unwavering desire to grow his empire in an attempt to assert his supremacy. In the last scene of the sequence, blood (from the man he kills) is seen splattered on his face and his ears are covered as he gives the order for his men to fire through the cannons during his first siege. He even kneels to honor his horse, which gave its life in battle by advancing the tanks, after the dust has settled.

However, we no longer see Napoleon covering his ears when, at the halfway point, he commands artillery fire on enemy forces that are stranded. The French Revolution’s joyous music is replaced by a somber soundtrack by composer Martin Phipps, while the screen is covered in sounds of blood splattering through the water beneath the ice. Additionally, Ridley makes sure that the death toll is displayed as a backdrop for each of Napoleon’s battles.

Thus, Ridley’s political views dominate the primary combat scene. A stunning battle scene is created by Claire Simpson’s editing, Arthur Max’s intricate production design, and Dariusz Wolski’s comprehensive and detailed cinematography. Ridley also provides a succinct but insightful analysis of Napoleon’s distinct military tactics and strategy. Surprisingly though, the intimacy of what comes next—Napoleon and Josephine’s romance—overshadows the greatness.

France and Josephine

Napoleon’s romantic attachment to Josephine serves as a miniature metaphor for his relationship with France. Regardless of the potential costs, he was always driven to strive for more. For example, there is a parallel when he leaves the mission in Egypt and goes home after learning that Josephine has something, just as he is sent into exile for starving hundreds of soldiers while returning from victory in Russia. Napoleon’s attempt to save his marriage will not allow him to give up his ambition for greatness.

Napoleon encounters the same issue as Ridley.Making a bittersweet romance and a war film is too much for him to handle at the same time. If he decides to concentrate on just one, he can definitely do both. He is troubled by the weight of both his legacy as a filmmaker best known for historical epics like Gladiator and his mission to write a good biography of Napoleon.

One of the love stories in Ridley’s epic film Napoleon might be one of the most poignant. He gives Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby’s scenes a rose-colored, amber glow that appears to be coming from a fireplace or a French sunset sky. The two have a great chemistry despite never being serious about their love or keeping it pure. Following a difficult circumstance, Napoleon tenderly murmurs in her ear, “Hardness is in our past.” I wish to have you as a very kind friend.”

There is never submission or dominance—only friction. Josephine laughs throughout the divorce decree, even after Napoleon slaps her for signing it (since he can’t give her an heir) and yells at her, As though driving those ideas home in his head, he said, Do it for your nation-state. They are still very close, even after their divorce. As Napoleon continues his quest to expand his empire, both horizontally through conquest and vertically through sleeping with another man for the birth of his heir, he watches as two swans separate and then reunite.

Napoleon’s death is how Ridley ends the movie, but he leaves us with a crucial question: what if he had given love a chance? Josephine’s voice interrupts a painting of Napoleon with his characteristic bicorn hat, inviting him to join her in the afterlife. One can only speculate as to what their love might have been like if it hadn’t been forgotten.

The same question is asked of Ridley Scott as well: what if he had just focused on making a romantic movie rather than a historical biopic? What if he showed up, liked it, and lost? Napoleon and Ridley Scott’s greatest victories, as well as their Waterloo states, are revealed to be violence at the heart of all violence and romance at the heart of all violence.

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