Even though I took French History in high school, I remember very little of it now and thus still got a bit lost while watching La Reine Margot, a period film by director Patrice Chéreau. The film, known in America as Queen Margot, takes place in the late 16th Century amidst the great unrest between the ruling Catholics and Protestant Huguenots. The film opens with the arranged wedding of the title character Margot, sister of the Catholic king, to the Huguenot King Henry of Navarre. Then what follows is a lot (a lot) of murders and sex (sometimes at the same time!).
It was hard for me to care for a lot of the characters in this film because its weight feels overpowering with its massive cast and the screenplay's unwillingness to hold its audience's hands through the numerous deaths and changing alliances. I don't necessarily begrudge the film for doing this, but just a observance as a first-time viewer. With that said, the film's other technical attributes were something to behold like its costumes, production values, and its painterly palette. Plus the main characters of Margot, Henry, and Margot's lover La Môle were the best fleshed out thus at least ensuring the film its emotional throughline.
The star-crossed affair between Margot and La Môle was the thing that left a lasting impact for me. Apart from the objective beauties of both actors (Isabelle Adjani and Vincent Perez), their whirlwind romance to me felt perfectly set amidst the inter-religious turmoil engulfing France and its citizens. And so my pick of best shot...
They've just finished making love and the last words she utters to him were "Do not ever leave me" and yet he must and he does. And so even though they got as close as two people ever could, they are also constantly apart from forces beyond their control. Thus this shot to me perfectly encapsulates it all--their messy and beautiful love affair amidst all the dark ugliness and unrest of the world. In that sense, it's a powerful image that lingers through to their inevitable tragic end.