As Ridley Scott’s much-anticipated film “Napoleon” gears up for its worldwide release next Wednesday, early reviews have poured in, and the reception has been anything but uniform.
While many have lauded the film for its spectacular and immense battle scenes, a faction of French critics and experts who had the privilege of early previews have raised concerns about portraying one of their most iconic historical figures.
The controversy centres around Joaquin Phoenix’s depiction of Napoleon Bonaparte, a role that has sparked both admiration and criticism.
Historian Patrice Gueniffey, in an interview with Le Point magazine, expressed his disappointment, stating that Scott “clearly doesn’t like Napoleon.”
Gueniffey characterized the portrayal as a caricature of an ambitious Corsican ogre, a sullen boor, and took issue with the depiction of Napoleon’s relationship with Josephine as distasteful.
Furthermore, Gueniffey contested the film’s concluding statistics, branding them as “fanciful,” particularly the claim that Napoleon was responsible for three million deaths.
According to Gueniffey, the film’s climax at the Battle of Waterloo is evidence of Scott’s “very anti-French and very pro-English” stance.
In response to these criticisms, other reviewers have defended Scott’s perspective. Jean-Philippe Gunet, in a review on social media platform X (formerly Twitter), acknowledged that Scott’s view may not be flattering but argued that it doesn’t overlook what made Napoleon great.
The debate over historical accuracy has also emerged, with Bonaparte expert Emilie Robbe disputing the claim that Napoleon fired on the pyramids in Egypt and British historian Dan Snow contesting the film’s portrayal of Napoleon’s presence at the execution of Marie-Antoinette.
Ridley Scott, however, appears unfazed by the fact-checking, responding bluntly in the New Yorker, “Get a life.”
This retort underscores the director’s determination to present his artistic vision rather than adhere strictly to historical details. This stance may ruffle purists’ feathers but aligns with his creative prerogative.
Nevertheless, not all criticisms are tied to historical accuracy. Some French critics have voiced a different concern, expressing disappointment with the film’s overall pace and narrative depth.
“Far from the expected epic biopic, ‘Napoleon’ proves too dull and didactic to live up to its subject,” wrote Les Numeriques.
This sentiment was echoed by TikTok reviewer Mehdi Omais, who likened the film to “more like a Wikipedia page than something deeply explored.”
The divergent opinions surrounding “Napoleon” highlight the challenges of portraying historical figures on the silver screen. Filmmakers often face a delicate balance between historical accuracy and artistic interpretation.
Ridley Scott’s decision to prioritize the latter has sparked a heated debate, emphasizing the subjective nature of historical storytelling in cinema.
As audiences worldwide eagerly await the release of “Napoleon,” the film’s controversies add an extra layer of intrigue.
Whether viewed as an epic cinematic achievement or a historical misstep, one thing is certain: Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” has ignited a passionate conversation about the intersection of art, history, and the cinematic medium.
This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members