La Revolution: A Series For Our Time
15th May 2021Some of the best shows say more about the times they're written in than the time they're supposed to be about. La Revolution, with its corrupt and greedy aristocracy lording it over the peasants, captures the zeitgeist of our 1% dominated times.
The story of this television series is a reimagined history of the French Revolution, which follows Albert and Joseph Guillotin as they uncover a disease that is driving the aristocracy to acts of murder. The aristocrats in this story are vicious, many of them filled with blue blood that makes them hungry for human flesh, and only cutting off their head will deal with them.
Joseph Guillotin (Amir El Kacem) is a doctor, but his older brother Albert (Lionel Erdogan) has been away for a long time and they don't speak. Then there's Elise de Montargis (Marilou Aussilloux), who is very protective of Madeleine (AmÃ©lia Lacquemant), who she claims as a sister but who isn't really. They are some of the more sympathetic nobles because they have a shred of empathy for their subjects.
Elise and Madeleine couldn't be further morally from Charles de Montargis (Laurent Lucas), or his son Donatien (Julien Frison). Charles is keen to put down the rebels at every turn, whilst concealing the disappearances of peasants that keep happening in the woods. While his father is ruthless and sneaky, his son is flamboyant, arrogant, and cruel, and doesn't bother to try to hide how evil he is.
This series is fun and dramatic, even though it's not exactly subtle in its condemnation of the rich and vacuous aristocrats. At every turn they have it coming: clueless at first, when they learn of the horrible plans of those who lead them they're often all too eager to go along with committing atrocities and acting as attackers when asked. The minor aristocrats in the story don't have much agency.
Marianne (Gaia Weiss) is one of the characters who does resist, and it's this tale of resistance, and of characters who break out of their appointed station in life to go against what is expected of those of their class, that makes this series compelling. That, and some frankly gorgeous sets and convincing acting. The family links between the characters make for some intriguing threads as the characters navigate ethical dilemmas about what to do as the conflict between aristocrats and everybody else grows increasingly vicious and bloody.
Eating the poorThe appetites of the nobility are insatiable, and the worst of them are out to eat those who don't share their social status. The central metaphor in La Revolution of the rich as monsters, is pretty blunt and uncompromising. It's hard to miss.
History paints the French aristocrats of this period in an unflattering light, to put it mildly. But this story takes that image and magnifies it. It's hard not to draw parallels between what's going on and modern France, where the protests of the gilets jaunes brought the class struggle between ordinary French people and an oppressive regime into prominence, and where the clashes between the gilets jaunes and the authorities were sometimes violent.
Resistance leader Marianne wears a face mask covering one eye. Several gilets jaunes have lost an eye, including one prominent member of the movement, JÃ©rÃ´me Rodrigues. Perhaps it's a coincidence, perhaps not?
© Ros Jackson