Cyrano de Bergerac
Background Information

Bergerac is a village located east of Bordeaux, in Southwestern France. Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac really existed. He lived in the 17th century, which is considered the "classic" period in the history of France and Europe. He was the author of several comedies, a tragedy and of fantastic stories about imaginary trips, for instance to the moon. [There is an allusion to a trip to the moon in the movie.] Cyrano really did have a very big nose and was in love with his beautiful cousin Roxane.

Edmond Rostand was an author of heroic and comic dramas who lived in the 19th century. He wrote the play "Cyrano de Bergerac" in the style of the 17th century, i.e. in classic alexandrine verse of 12 syllables per verse. To the French, the play sounds "classic" even though it was written in the 19th century. It reveals life in the 17th century: luxury and emphasis on exagerated refinement (‘preciosité’), affectation,  the importance of the military on the one hand and of wit, poetry and the theater on the other.

At the beginning of the play/movie we are in Paris in 1640, under the reign of Louis XIII. Under his reign, Canada became a French colony. The play finishes in 1655, under the reign of Louis XIV, the "Sun King". The costume worn by the Duke de Guiche at the end of the play/movie is typical of the extravagance of the court of Louis XIV at Versailles.

The battles shown in the movie are between France and Spain. They do not take place in Spain or Gascogne, the area where Cyrano and his men are from, but in the north, around Arras, in Picardie. That is so because, at that time, Spain occupied "Flanders", the northern part of France and today’s Belgium. Spain lost that war; therefore "Flanders" became part of France.

Edmond Rostand’s excellent play has inspired several movies, but this one, directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau, is considered a "classic" in its own right because it is the most faithful and most beautiful adaptation of the play. The actors are outstanding, the costumes are magnificent and the battle scenes are superbly directed. There is a constant variation of rhythm and tone.

Cyrano, the play, and the film have ‘panache’ (the last word of the play/movie *).






*panache = 
1. an ornamental tuft of feathers (on a hat or helmet)
2. dash, flamboyance in style and action, verve




Website designed and maintained by Barbara Vigano, Prof. emeritus of French, Mt. San Antonio College