The French Revolution
Narrated by Edward Herrmann
Review from The Patriot Resource:
The French Revolution is depressing. It was brought about by misery, brought on more misery and ended with Napoleon rising to power. It makes the American Revolution, which took place about twenty years before, utterly dignified by comparison. The History Channel brings us the carnage with a sensational flair. The tabloid-like style of short, juicy, but sketchy descriptions of events is the result of the current TV landscape. Jaded viewers need shock-value to stay tuned in to just about anything, let alone history documentary programming. This style works almost to perfection with this material. In short, the French Revolution deserves a similar kind of disgust or pity that an episode of the Jerry Springer Show spawns.
As related by narrator Edward Herrmann, the
French Revolution was brought about by mismanagement and utter lack of consideration for the common Frenchman by the Bourbon royal family. Actually, we Americans have a greater role beyond having had a sucessful revolution. Louis XV and the French government had spent heavily in support of America in its battle against the British and had ground the French economy down. .After his death, his grandson Louis XVI took over in title, but not in leadership. His wife, Marie Antoinette, an Austrian princess, did nothing to improve the situation with her own lavish spending.
Having set the stage for the French Revolution, the program now leads us through each pivotal event of the French Revolution, each of which was accompanied by the madness of and slaughter by the mob: Just when one thinks the madness cannot go any further, it instead intesifies. The Bastille is stormed and torn down, Versailles is stormed and the King and Queen are taken, The Terror and finally The Great Terror. Then suddenly, with Robespierre's fate decided, the madness ends.
Ordinarily, the repeated use of a bloody guillotine as well as other instances of bloodied props and even just dripping blood would make a documentary seem more like a bad B-movie, but as mentioned above, it fits with the French Revolution. This program rams home the point that the French Revolution was a madness that nearly consumed itself. Along with the props, it made use of paintings, small groups of reenactors and commentary by several scholars. Of pleasant amusement to this reviewer were a handful of unscholarly sounding turns of phrase uttered by these experts.
This reviewer found himself riveted by the insanity of it all, hoping for some kind of happy ending and amazed that the French nation has survived to modern day. PatriotrResource.com recommends that you check this program out. If the first thirty minutes don't overwhelm you, then you should be able to make it through all two hours (approximately 90 minutes running time without commercials).
One last note: the program ends almost abruptly after Robespierre's fate is settled. It offers only a brief coda that states that scholars continue to debate over the true ending of the French Revolution and then notes Napoleon's rise to power. To this reviewer, the ending, or lack thereof, screamed that the history programming equivalent of a sequel is planned.
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