Napoleon Bonaparte is perhaps the most famous Frenchman of all time and, after Jesus, the personality with the most films about his life and work.
Napoleon is a complex subject whose aura, ferocity and genius are perfectly suited to the big screen, making it an irresistible challenge for any serious filmmaker. Therefore, it is not surprising that Ridley Scott, at the age of 85, after a long and productive career, finally succumbed to the lure of the “little corporal” from Corsica.
His own Napoleon due in theaters at the end of the month with the super-talented Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role and a soundtrack that includes Black Sabbath (the classic by the fatal War Pigs) and an interesting cover of Radiohead’s The National Anthem, as he writes The Guardian promises to tell the story of the French general through his torturous love affair with his wife Josephine, his obsessions and jealousies, and his plan to conquer Europe.
Napoleon in love
“I’ve been unhappy since I left you. Happiness is when I’m next to you. I live constantly in the memory of your caresses, your tears, your tender care”, wrote Napoleon in love in one of his infamous love letters.
“Happiness is when I am by your side,” Napoleon wrote to Josephine.
The young widow with two children met Napoleon in 1795, when she was 32 and he was just 26. A year earlier she had lost her husband, Alexandre de Boernay, who had been sentenced to death and guillotined. As a widow, she was the mistress of many prominent politicians and at that time she was the mistress of Paul Barras, who wanted to bring her close to Napoleon, because he found new ones and could not support both. They met at a party and Napoleon, without expecting it, fell head over heels in love with her.
The truth is that she didn’t like him, but because she loved life in luxury, she accepted his flirtation and married him on the spot. The story goes that she began to long for him when the French general, who had to quickly leave her alone after the wedding, found out about her infidelities and decided to keep his distance from her. The sex between them is said to have been proverbial and to raise the entire palace to its feet in a frenzy. Napoleon and Josephine divorced five years after she became empress because she could not provide him with the heir he desired, but they remained good friends as he never stopped caring for her and her children.
Noble cause or source of shame
Ridley Scott’s film has already managed to provoke reactions, since although many have called it a masterpiece, several have identified historical inaccuracies in its narrative. Historian Dan Snow analyzed some examples of historical deviation in TikTok videos, and one of the issues he addressed was the idea that Napoleon “came out of nowhere” as the poster states, which he points out is not the case. because his father was an aristocrat.
To all this the British director responded with the well-known English expression “get a life” which in free translation means deal with your own life and not my film.
It should be noted that in recent years a great debate has been opened in France about its colonial adventures, specifically the period 1798-1801 in which it conquered parts of Syria and Egypt from the Ottoman Empire and how these are consistent with the country’s intention to export, liberty, equality, and solidarity, if that was a noble cause or a source of shame to France.