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The French Revolution
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On July 14, 1789, a mob of angry Parisians stormed the Bastille and seized the King's military stores. A decade of idealism, war, murder, and carnage followed, bringing about the end of feudalism and the rise of equality and a new world order. The French Revolution is a definitive feature-length documentary that encapsulates this heady (and often headless) period in Western civilization. With dramatic reenactments, illustrations, and paintings from the era, plus revealing accounts from journals and expert commentary from historians, The French Revolution vividly unfurls in a maelstrom of violence, discontent, and fundamental change. King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Maximilien Robespierre, and Napoleon Bonaparte lead a cast of thousands in this essential program from THE HISTORY CHANNEL®. Narrated by Edward Herrmann (The Aviator, Gilmore Girls), The French Revolution explores the legacy that--now more than ever--stands as both a warning and a guidepost to a new millennium
- Making of The French Revolution Featurette
- Interactive Menus
- Scene Selection
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During the first minute, they tell how the revolution began when high bread prices sparked a violent uprising. During the next 99 minutes they narrate the chronological events of increasing violence, using acted scenes, fake blood and sound bytes from "scholars", to give a "play-by-play" summary of the carnage and beheadings, leading up to a mention of Napoleon.
During the last thirty seconds, they surprisingly conclude by saying that the French Revolution was a very good thing, because it inspired China and Vietnam and because Louis was a tyrant. Prior to this little or no mention had been made of Louis' tyranny, although the film had dwelt on his bedroom difficulties in some detail and also mentioned his weight problem a few times.
After watching 90 minutes of bloody scenes, I found the films conclusion that the French Revolution was a good thing to be an incomprehensible non sequitur. I would have liked to have seen some historical analysis to support this conclusion.
1. Political Alliances
2. The Enlightenment
3. Madame Deficit
4. Financial Crisis
5. To the Bastille
6. The Peoples Friend
7. Foreign Assistance
8. Death of a King
9. Noble Blood
10. Defending the Border
11. Civic Virtue
This presentation gives background and context. The huge cost of supporting the American Revolution, the bitter winter, the foolish decisions by the King, the new enlightenment beliefs, the hatred of feudalism and aristocracy, all connect.
The calling of the estates general, for first time in over a hundred years, and the resulting step-by-step revolution is well explained.
Robespierre's change from opposing the death penalty to the foremost user is documented. Proclaiming the need for 'The Rule of Terror', in the name of 'Reason', is stunning.
Rise of Napoleon and the war against Europe is shown. Europe and its aristocracy wants this new "enlightenment'' stopped. Napoleon wins, even though he loses. The enlightenment and the German revolt - Romanticism - change Europe permanently. Leads to Marx and the European wide revolts of 1848, the Paris Commune of 1871 (first modern communists), and then brings 1914 and Lenin in 1917.
(See J. L. Talmon - ''Origins of Totalitarian Democracy'' - for an astute analysis. Also, Rosentock-Hussey - ''Out of Revolution'')
Good combination of the impact of ideas and leading players. The French Revolution is a milestone on the road to the present. Many of the ideas, problems, conundrums, are still controlling modernity. Reason vs religion, individual freedom vs collective control, authority of the elite vs will of the majority, majority tyranny vs minority rights; all are still troubling the present. This is where it began.
Watched with my ten year old grandson. He was astounded to see that terrorists started in France more than two hundred years ago.
The History Channel has produced many well-made and educational documentaries over the years. One would have to admit that their Biography Series is second to none. But they have really out done themselves with The French Revolution, as it covers the numerous causes of this important insurrection, focusing on major personages in the aristocracy, the enlightenment and the key political insurgents, painting excellent portraits of Maximus Robespierre and the mad journalist, Marat, leading to their ironic and bloody ends. The Reign of Terror is depicted particularly well with all its high drama, intrigue and endless flow of blood. Interestingly, these portraits of the major players in the revolution, Robespierre, Danton, Marie Antoinette and Louie the 16th, were all done with such pathos, that I came away from the film feeling real empathy for these people, especially Marie Antoinette. This is the way history, as a subject, should be taught, evoking feelings for the people and the times under study.
The documentary combines images, well-acted scenarios and informative interviews with academics including a compelling narration - it is also very well written, as it is tremendously difficult to cover such a complex event in a short time and do it any justice. If you have any interest in The French Revolution, an event that virtually changed the world, this documentary would be a suitable starting point. It would also be a worthwhile teaching resource for students in the middle years and above.