La Nuit de Varennes

Watch La Nuit de Varennes

  • R
  • 1982
  • 2 hr 30 min
  • 7.2  (2,486)

La Nuit de Varennes is a historical drama film released in 1982 directed by Ettore Scola. The movie is a fictionalized account of the events that occurred on the night of June 20, 1791, when a group of passengers was travelling from Paris and stopped in the town of Varennes during the early days of the French Revolution. The film stars Jean-Louis Barrault as Nicolas Edme Restif de la Bretonne, Marcello Mastroianni as Casanova, and Hanna Schygulla as Madame Royale.

The movie begins with an introduction in which the narrator talks about the events that led to the French Revolution, the overthrow of King Louis XVI and the establishment of the French Republic. It explains how the French aristocracy was split between those who supported the revolution and those who opposed it, and the complex web of alliances and conspiracies that existed at the time.

The main action of the movie takes place on the night of June 20, 1791, when a group of passengers sets out from Paris to Varennes. The passengers include Restif (Barrault), a writer and philosopher who is fascinated by the revolution; Casanova (Mastroianni), the notorious adventurer and lover; Madame Royale (Schygulla), the daughter of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette; and several other characters, including a pair of musicians, a princess and her lover, and a republican journalist.

As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the passengers have different motivations for making the journey. Restif is trying to gather material for a book about the revolution, while Casanova is simply looking for adventure and romance. Madame Royale, meanwhile, is travelling incognito, disguised as a man, in order to escape from her captors and join her parents in exile.

The journey is beset by various difficulties and complications, including bad weather, mechanical breakdowns, and arguments among the passengers. Along the way, they encounter various figures from French history, including Robespierre (played by Jean-Claude Brialy), the infamous revolutionary leader.

Eventually, the group arrives in Varennes, where they are met by a crowd of curious locals who have come to see the king's daughter. But instead of finding safety and refuge, they discover that the town is in the grip of the revolution, and that they are in danger of being arrested and executed.

As the night wears on, the passengers are forced to confront the realities of the revolution and the fate that awaits them. Restif becomes increasingly disillusioned with the revolution, while Madame Royale is torn between her loyalty to her family and her sympathy for the cause of the republic. Casanova, meanwhile, continues to seek adventure and pleasure, even in the face of danger.

The film is a lush and visually stunning portrayal of a critical moment in French history. The costumes and sets are lavish and detailed, and the performances by the cast are nuanced and powerful. Barrault in particular gives a memorable performance as the conflicted Restif, while Mastroianni is charming and roguish as Casanova.

One of the film's major themes is the tension between the aristocracy and the revolutionary movement. The different characters represent different facets of this struggle, from Restif's sympathy for the revolution to Casanova's disdain for it. The film also explores the ambiguous nature of the revolution itself, highlighting the idealism and brutality that coexisted during this transformative period in French history.

La Nuit de Varennes is a must-see for anyone interested in French history, the French Revolution or the work of Ettore Scola. Its rich and layered portrayal of a defining moment in French history is as relevant today as it was when the film was first released.

La Nuit de Varennes
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    2 hr 30 min
  • IMDB Rating
    7.2  (2,486)