The Princess of Montpensier

The Princess of Montpensier (French: La Princesse de Montpensier) is a 2010 French period romance film directed by Bertrand Tavernier, inspired by the novel of the same name published anonymously by Madame de La Fayette in 1662. It stars Mélanie Thierry in the title role, alongside Gaspard Ulliel, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, Lambert Wilson and Raphaël Personnaz.

The Princess of Montpensier
Theatrical release poster
La Princesse de Montpensier
Directed byBertrand Tavernier
Produced byMarc Silam
Eric Heuman
Screenplay byJean Cosmos
François-Olivier Rousseau
Bertrand Tavernier
Story byMadame de La Fayette
StarringMélanie Thierry
Gaspard Ulliel
Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet
Lambert Wilson
Raphaël Personnaz
Music byPhilippe Sarde
CinematographyBruno de Keyzer
Edited bySophie Brunet
Paradis Films
Distributed byStudioCanal
Release date
  • 16 May 2010 (2010-05-16) (Cannes)
  • 3 November 2010 (2010-11-03) (France)
Running time
139 minutes
Budget$14.5 million [1]
Box office$7 million [2]

The film mixes fiction and history in the years of bloody conflict known as the Wars of Religion, which not only opposed Catholics with Protestants but also involved bitter power struggles between factions of the nobility and the royal family. The culminating event is the St Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572, during which mobs of armed Catholics hunted down and slaughtered thousands of their Protestant neighbours. Amid these dramatic events, the central story is that of the Princess, who loves a childhood friend but is forced into marriage with another man and is in turn loved by her older tutor.[3] The film competed at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival and was released in French cinemas on 3 November 2010.


Sickened at the meaningless bloodshed between Catholics and Protestants in the Wars of Religion, the Count of Chabannes decides to desert. Captured by bandits who are about to hang him, he is rescued by his former pupil, the Prince of Montpensier. The two ride to the castle of the Mézières family, where the prince's father has been negotiating a bride for his son. This is Marie, who is on intimate terms with her childhood friend, the powerful Duke of Guise. When Guise is outraged to hear that Marie is to be given to Montpensier, Chabannes tries to reconcile the two fiery young men who have drawn swords.

After the marriage the newly-wed couple go with Chabannes to the Montpensier castle and, on the way, Chabannes confesses to Marie his disgust over the wars and his part in them. Montpensier then has to go with his parents to the royal court in Paris, leaving Marie in the care of Chabannes as her tutor. The lonely bride and the disillusioned count become very close, so much so that he admits to her that he loves her.

Montpensier returns home for a while but is summoned again to Paris. Chabannes takes the letter into the bedroom where the couple are asleep naked, and Marie does not attempt to cover herself. Before Montpensier goes, Guise appears on their estate with his cousin the Duke of Anjou, heir to the childless and ailing King Charles IX. The two see Marie in a boat on the river and Anjou too is struck by her beauty. Invited into the castle for dinner, there is tense conversation between the four men (Anjou, Guise, Montpensier and Chabannes), all now in love with Marie.

All go to Paris where, when Guise starts talking intimately to Marie, Montpensier surprises them and swords are drawn. This time it is Anjou who breaks up the fight. Guise then catches Marie on a staircase and starts making love to her, but she breaks away. She tells Chabannes, who advises her to keep well clear of Guise.

She still wants to see him, and at a masked ball asks him to meet her on the same staircase. However, the man behind the mask is not Guise but Anjou, who immediately finds Guise and tells him to stay away from Marie. He then finds Marie and warns her against Guise. Her husband, furious at what is going on, puts her in the care of Chabannes, to be taken back to the country in the morning. That night, Guise puts a dagger to Chabannes' throat and demands to see Marie. Once admitted, he declares his love and warns her against Anjou but, hearing blows on the locked door, then escapes. Montpensier breaks in and, furious to find Chabannes in her bedroom, kicks him out and departs. Guise then slips back in and has a night of love with Marie.

Marie rides home alone, while the even more disillusioned Chabannes takes a room in an inn. But it is the evening of 24 August 1572 and, as Catholic mobs led by Guise start massacring all Protestants, he dies protecting a pregnant woman. Montpensier rides to see Marie, telling her that Chabannes is dead, that Anjou is going away to Poland and that Guise is getting married at Blois the next day. She rides immediately to Blois and tells Guise that she is ready to leave Montpensier for him, but he says he must keep his engagement. She remembers the last words to her of Chabannes: “As you have lost the trust of your husband and the heart of your lover, at least you have my true friendship.” Dressed in black, through a snow-covered landscape, she rides to his tomb.



Unusual for a Bertrand Tavernier project, the director was not attached from the very start. When he became involved, there was already a first version of a screenplay written by François-Olivier Rousseau. With his usual co-writer Jean Cosmos, Tavernier went back to the original source in order to adapt the script to his own vision.[4] The screenplay was not an entirely faithful adaptation of the original short story, published anonymously in 1662. "Mme de La Fayette, who was from the 17th century, wrote about the 16th. Knowing that the 17th century had become very puritanical, while the 16th was not, we removed some filters, but never bent the feelings portrayed", Tavernier explained in Le Figaro.[3]

The film was produced by Paradis Films. It received co-production support from StudioCanal, the television channels France 2 and France 3 and the German company Pandora. Additional funding was provided by the National Center of Cinematography and the Deutsch-Französische Förderkommission. The budget was 13.35 million euro.[5][6]

Costumes were made in Italy and England.[7] An inspiration for the costume design was the 1994 film La Reine Margot, which is set during the same period. What Tavernier liked about the film was how casual the costumes were, and not at all based on the ceremonial clothing seen in paintings from 16th century.[4] Horses were brought to the set from Paris.[7] Lambert Wilson and Raphaël Personnaz were the only actors with previous riding experience, and all main actors prepared for their roles by taking riding lessons.[4]

Filming started 28 September 2009 and lasted nine weeks, in the city Angers and the regions Centre and Cantal.[8] Filming locations included the Château de Blois and the Château de Messilhac, with more than 100 people working permanently on the sets.[3][7] For the riding scenes, a steadicam was placed on a motorcycle or a small car in order to provide freedom of movement for the riders. Tavernier drew inspiration from old Western films, where important conversations often take place on horseback.[4] The lighting was inspired by film noir, as the director primarily aimed to create an atmosphere of emotional tension, "not imitate paintings or pictorial reconstruction".[9] The film was shot in Panavision and contains no artificial special effects or computer-generated imagery.[4]


The film premiered on 16 May as part of the main competition of the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.[10] StudioCanal released it in 384 French cinemas on 3 November the same year.[11] Distribution rights for the United States were bought in Cannes by IFC Films, which releases it on 1 April 2011.[12][13]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 84% based on 63 reviews and an average rating of 7/10.[14] At Metacritic, the film has a score of 78 out of 100 based on 20 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[15]

François-Guillaume Lorrain reviewed the film for Le Point and was impressed by the adaptation: "Tavernier knows how to give breath, get rid of dust, be modern, without ever sullying the original". Lorrain complimented the performances of Wilson, Vuillermoz, Personnaz and Leprince-Ringuet, and wrote that the film "reconciles the taste of unbound feelings and sharp blades".[16] Léo Soesanto of Les Inrockuptibles was less enthusiastic and described the film as "the wars of religion in a teen movie". He did think it had a certain sense of fresh air and lucidity, but that "the flamboyant feelings and the battles are freeze-dried", which only left an impression of emptiness.[17] It received the top rating of three stars in Le Parisien, where Marie Sauvion wrote: "The beauty of the images, of the costumes, the delight of a dusted off romance, of an inspiring troupe of actors, of amazing supporting roles ... , all of this contributes to make The Princess of Montpensier an ambitious and poignant film."[18]

In the U.S., the film has received largely favorable reviews, including one from Roger Ebert.[19] Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic wrote- 'The Princess of Montpensier proves again that Tavernier is a master, partly because his mastery extends to sustaining his work without quite the people he needs'.[20]


Award / Film Festival Category Recipients and nominees Result
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Nominated
Cabourg Film Festival Male Revelation Raphaël Personnaz Won
César Awards Most Promising Actor Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet Nominated
Raphaël Personnaz Nominated
Best Adaptation Jean Cosmos, Francois-Olivier Rousseau and Bertrand Tavernier Nominated
Best Cinematography Bruno de Keyzer Nominated
Best Original Music Philippe Sarde Nominated
Best Costume Design Caroline de Vivaise Won
Best Production Design Guy-Claude Francois Nominated
Lumières Awards Best Actor Lambert Wilson Nominated

See also


  1. "La Princesse de Montpensier". JP's Box-Office.
  2. "The Princess of Montpensier (2011) - International Box Office Results - Box Office Mojo".
  3. Frois, Emmanuèle (1 December 2009). "Tavernier au bras de "La Princesse de Montpensier"". Le Figaro (in French). Retrieved 17 April 2010.
  4. Baurez, Thomas (16 May 2010). "Bertrand Tavernier raconte le tournage de La Princesse de Montpensier". L'Express (in French). Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  5. Lemercier, Fabien (16 April 2010). "Tavernier, Beauvois and Amalric in race". Cineuropa. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  6. "Deutsch-Französische Förderkommission vergibt insgesamt 1,24 Mio. Euro". (in German). Deutsches Filminstitut. 30 March 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
  7. Dijols, Nathalie (25 October 2009). "Tavernier et Lambert Wilson en tournage à Messilhac". La Dépêche du Midi (in French). Retrieved 18 April 2010.
  8. Lemercier, Fabien (4 September 2009). "Tavernier and La Princesse de Montpensier". Cineuropa. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
  9. Lemercier, Fabien (16 May 2010). "Interview with Bertrand Tavernier". Cineuropa. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
  10. "The screenings guide" (PDF). Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  11. Lemercier, Fabien (3 November 2010). "Buried gets 228-print run, innovative promotional campaign". Cineuropa. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  12. Cox, Gordon (21 May 2010). "IFC picks up 'Princess'". Variety. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  13. "The Princess of Montpensier". Retrieved 23 October 2010.
  14. "La princesse de Montpensier (The Princess of Montpensier) (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  15. "The Princess of Montpensier". Metacritic.
  16. Lorrain, François-Guillaume (29 October 2010). "'La princesse de Montpensier', fiévreux duels et duos enflammés". Le Point (in French). Retrieved 3 November 2010. Tavernier sait donner du souffle, dépoussiérer, être moderne, sans jamais galvauder l'original"; "réconcilie le goût des sentiments déliés et des lames effilées.
  17. Soesanto, Léo (2 November 2010). "La Princesse de Montpensier". Les Inrockuptibles (in French). Retrieved 3 November 2010. les guerres de religions dans un teen movie"; "les sentiments flamboyants et les batailles sont lyophilisés
  18. Sauvion, Marie (3 November 2010). "" La Princesse de Montpensier " : passionné". Le Parisien (in French). Retrieved 3 November 2010. La beauté des images, des costumes, le plaisir d’un romanesque dépoussiéré, d’une troupe d’acteurs inspirée, de seconds rôles épatants ... , tout cela concourt à faire de « la Princesse de Montpensier » un film ambitieux et poignant.
  19. "The Princess of Montpensier". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  20. Stanley Kauffmann on Films: French Toasts
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