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
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.