Country : France
Medium : Black and white (silent and subsequently talking)
Duration : 195'
Video : MPM Production - 1990
Production : Société du film Napoléon
Scenario : Abel Gance
Screenplay : Abel Gance
Music : Arthur Honegger
Director of photography : Jules Kruger
Plot : The young Bonaparte's famous snowball fight, the meeting with Josephine, and the Italian campaign: three memorable moments in the life of the young hero. Death dogs Bonaparte's every step along path to glory. The episodes charting the flight from Corsica, the taking of Toulon and the victory on the Italian plains are all unforgettable but they could have brought the young Republican general to grief. Fortunately for him, his eagle was watching over his destiny all along the way. Always in the background is the haunting image of Josephine...
Cast : Albert Dieudonné (Bonaparte) ; Gina Manès (Josephine) ; Vladimir Roudenko (young Bonaparte) ; Antonin Artaud (Marat) ; Edmond Van Daele (Robespierre) ; Abel Gance (Saint-Just) ; Annabella (Violine) ; Alexandre Koubitzky (Danton) ; Harry Krimer (Rouget de Lisle) ; Philippe Hériat (Salicetti) ; Jean d'Yd (Labussière) ; Robert Vidalin (Camille Desmoulins) ; Max Maxudian (Barras) ; Marguerite Gance (Charlotte Corday) ; Maurice Schutz (Paoli) ; Pierre Batcheff (Hoche)
Extract : « Marat. - What do you aim to achieve, Bonaparte ?
Bonaparte. - To free a people in chains, to unify great European interests, to break down all frontiers and bring about... the Universal Republic. »
Review : The best film made on Napoleon to date. Even though Gance was never able to finish his gigantic historical fresco (designed for showing on several screens at the same time), the viewer is nevertheless carried away by the film's beautiful construction and the lyricism of the images. The pace is breathless, doubtless as a result of the new techniques which Gance invented specially for this film: cameras on horse-back or on swings, superimposition of images, etc. As for Honegger's magnificent music, it remains as powerfully seductive as it was when first written. The use of the triple screen was a great publicity coup on its release in 1927. But these days critics put the emphasis more on Gance's historical rigour; indeed nothing in the film was left to chance. In terms of historical accuracy, it is a masterpiece. And Gance loved this film so much that that he released later versions, notably one with sound, a feature which the director had planned for when he made the actors articulate the words of the dialogue for the soundtrack that was to come. Albert Dieudonné is the perfect embodiment of Bonaparte, Gina Manès plays a passionate Josephine, and Antonin Artaud gives the most dramatic performance of Marat in the history of the cinema. A must see.