Director: Derek Bennett, Reginald Collin, Jonathan Alwyn
Screenplay: Jonathan Alwyn
Producer: Reginald Collin
Starring: Ian Holm, Billie Whitelaw, Peter Bowles, Ronald Hines, Peter Jeffrey, TP McKenna, Sorcha Cusack, Edward de Souza, Veronica Lang, John White
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 468 min.
A few decades into his long career, Ian Holm took a role on a nine part miniseries for British television which was originally supposed to span the life of Napoleon Bonaparte from his early days before the rise of the First Republic to his final days in lonely exile on the island of St. Helena. The show’s scope is quite something by today’s standards never mind 1974 and as one could have guessed, the show didn’t turn out exactly as originally planned and the rather than focusing on Napoleon’s complete life, it narrowed its focus to his loves.
Though Holm once made a passing remark about having escaped Napoleon & Love “relatively unscathed,” the show is nothing to write off as simple drivel. Yes, the original scope would have been much more interesting but the series is not, by any means, bad.
Holm leads the way through the decades of love affairs and though over the years various women enter his life, he meets the love of his life, Josephine, early on in the series and she immediately becomes his main point of interest even as he travels through society with many a pretty thing. The acting is outstanding as is the production design. The costumes are gorgeous as are the sets and though they are much more limited than other productions of the time, they are carefully looked to and the result is a beautiful show.
There are some minor problems with the production, most notably talk of Napoleon’s conquests on the battle field which are spoken of in salons but never shown on screen – likely the result of limited funding. One gets used to it the third or fourth time it happens but I couldn’t let go of the thought that I wanted to see some of those great battles, even in small scale. Even with that small complaint, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Holm own the role of Napoleon and the cast, particularly Billie Whitelaw in the role of Josphine, Veronica Lang and the excellent Tim Curry who I wished had a larger role.
Acorn Media’s release of the show on DVD is quite a feat considering how badly the show has been treated over the years and occasionally, the sound and picture are slightly off. It’s not unbearable but I did pick-up on it a few times here and there and though it doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the show I would have liked a little extra love in the transfer.
Though Napoleon & Love delivers exactly its title suggests, I would have liked to see more than just Napoleon’s romantic conquests. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the series and it’s one I’d recommend to fans of period dramas and those who, like me, don’t miss an episode of Masterpiece Theatre.
Napoleon & Love is available on DVD and Blu-Ray on March 1st.
DVD Extras: A timeline of historical events which I liked refering to as we moved across the years of Napoleon’s life. Also included is a collection of cast filmographies.