Published By: ahvana27

Ridley Scott’s Napoleon- A Hit or a Miss? A historical perspective

Ridley Scott’s Napoleon is currently the latest new box office hit! It draws on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, and deals with his psychological nature, as well as his ambitious military career which lead him to take France back, almost to a monarchy! However, taking a different perspective, inclined to history and historical debates and questions, it becomes important to ask that was the film in general a hit or a miss? Here are some perspectives regarding either side of the debate! Of course, no opinion is paramount!

POV- It’s a Miss!

Not much research!

One thing which came out throughout the film is that it was not very well researched! Scott, it seems remains faithful to a timeline, rather than attempting to absorb a proper perspective. It misses the potentials that it could have played on which are popular in history! For those, pursuing CBSE board in India, you would remember, that in the class 9th textbook, there was a huge component on the French Revolution, where the last part was a discussion about Napoleon Bonaparte. The question that was asked was, was Napoleon a child of the revolution, (as he was a product of the revolution in France) or did he put an end to the revolution? One more very interesting, albeit admittedly indirect approach could have been to also examine Napoleon in terms of France’s colonial legacy, which was merely skimmed over in one scene! Yes, there was Egypt (which is also depicted inaccurately)- but during the revolution, there was also an intense anti-colonial revolution in Haiti, which was a French colony! These legacies, owing to the changing worldviews today could be very interesting to incorporate! While these seem to be a very prominent topic of debate, they did not make it to the screen. The film insists on following the timeline, highlighting occasionally the insecurities of the man! That way, it missed many opportunities to put forth to the audience, complex debates in exciting ways! Another thing missing was a proper exploration of the Reign of Terror, which was more complicated, and had more people involved than just Robespierre! All these perspectives could have been interesting, instead of just focusing on one man and his ambiguous personality! 

 Suspense? Missing! 

Due to less research, the screenplay ends up being very flat. Though the battle scenes are intense and grimy, the film ends up being extremely slow and not being able to build up suspense, which good historical films usually have done in the past!

 Unrealistic and inaccurate sometimes!

 Though dramatic imagination is allowed, some scenes were majorly inaccurate and unrealistic! One of the scenes for example is the attack on the pyramids of Egypt, and also the depiction of the grueling Russian winters which never happened, as pointed out by historians!

POV- It’s a Hit!

Acting of another level!

Coming to some of the things that Ridley did get right, was the casting choices. Joaquin Phoenix makes the entire film! He is Napoleon, and Napoleon is he! Right from the makeup to the absorbing the character- their insecurities, and the supreme personality on the battlefield, Phoenix manages it masterfully! He is a joy to watch! Other than this, there was also Vanessa Kirby, who played Napoleon’s wife and love. While her storyline was a little off in places, she did brilliantly! Both Phoenix and Kirby complemented each other extremely well!

Humour done right!

One more thing is that the humour and wit in the film in some of the dialogues were on point! 

So what do you think?