Colonel Chabert

Based on a novel by Honoré de Balzac

Colonel Chabert was so seriously wounded at the battle of Eylau (East Prussia) between Napoleon and Russia that he was abandoned with the dead on the battlefield.

The Battle of Eylau (February 7, 1807) was a bloody and inconclusive contest between the forces of Napoleon and a mostly Russian army. Eylau was the first serious check to the French Grande Armée, which in the previous two campaigning seasons had demolished the armies of the established great powers of Europe (Germany, Austria, and Prussia).

Colonel Chabert was officially declared dead. His rich widow then married a count with political ambitions (but without money). They have two children.

The film takes place ten years later, in 1817, under the restored monarchy of Louis XVIII. The countess (with a past that connects her to Napoleon, now called an “usurper”) has become a hindrance to the count’s political ambition of being nominated “Peer” of the monarchy.

In 1817 the “dead” Colonel Chabert appears in front of the countess’ lawyer to reclaim his name and property. The lawyer is touched by the fate of Chabert and manages to assemble the necessary documents to prove that he is not an impostor or fake. He agrees to fight for his rights although he is also the countess’ lawyer.  He arranges a meeting between the colonel and his ex-wife.

She does everything in her power not to let her ex-husband ruin her present life. In the end, it is the lawyer who reveals his existence to the count….

Excellent adaptation of an excellent 19th century novel. In flashback we get to see the horrors of Napoleon’s battles and the styles of dress under Napoleon (“Empire style”). We also see the best and the worst living conditions in the 19th century, rich country estates as well as the most abject poverty.

 

 

 

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