Miss Game of Thrones? Check Out French Film La Reine Margot

With tons of blood, lust and political scheming, La Reine Margot (or Queen Margot, in the English translation) is what we need to satisfy our thirst for all those things while there is no Game of Thrones on TV. The first season of House of the Dragon has ended, and it may take a good long while before any concrete news of Season 2 comes our way. This historical French drama, though, seems almost tailor-made to fill this Thrones gap in television. The obvious catch is that, of course, there are no dragons, unfortunately. But that’s the only one, too.

By now, it’s widely known that George R.R. Martin based key moments and elements of his A Song of Ice and Fire novel series on actual historical facts. The whole premise behind House of the Dragon, for example, comes from an actual conflict in English history. So there’s no better way to continue within the author’s mindset than delving into a historical drama that has all the elements we know and love from the Game of Thrones franchise. There’s a bit (or a lot) of everything in La Reine Margot: sex, blood, mad kings, rivalry between factions, parents plotting against their children for their own political benefit, beheadings, unlikely friendships, you name it. Apart from dragons, of course.

What is ‘La Reine Margot’ About?

The movie is set in France in the end of the 16th century. By that time, the country was divided between two main religious and political factions, the Catholics and the Huguenots, a variant of the Protestant faith. King Charles IX (Jean-Hugues Anglade) is a member of the Valois Dynasty and has no heirs, much due to his neurotic and disturbed personality — a kind of Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney). With a very weak political mind, he is constantly swayed by both sides: the Catholics represented by his mother, Catherine de Medici (Virna Lisi), and the leader of the Huguenots, Admiral Coligny (Jean-Claude Brialy). Due to this altercation, tensions are high, with Huguenots in constant fear of the Catholics and vice-versa.

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To appease everyone’s tempers, Catherine, who herself is historically nicknamed “the Serpent Queen,” due to her abilities that resemble a lot those of Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) and Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), arranges the marriage of her only daughter, Margot of Valois (Isabelle Adjani), to Huguenot nobleman Henri of Bourbon (Daniel Auteuil), the King of Navarre. Anyone who’s ever watched Game of Thrones knows by now that weddings are a powerful political tool, and that, also, those who arrange them tend to have their own ulterior motives more often than not. With Catherine that’s no different, and she knows the wedding will bring most of the Huguenot leaders to Paris.

Caught in the middle of all this turmoil is Margot, who herself has shades of Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). She’s Catherine’s only daughter, and it’s implied that she and her many brothers often sleep together, like Targaryens (and certain Lannisters, too). She is a lustful young woman, who thoroughly enjoys life’s delights, especially the carnal ones, but, due to her youth, still lacks the malice her mother is so famous for. She married out of duty, but is now the key player in a political dispute that will cost the life of many unsuspecting players, risking even her lover’s, the dashing Joseph de La Môle (Vincent Perez).

How Is It Similar to ‘Game of Thrones’?

La Reine Margot- Isabelle Adjani as Queen Margot

There were many factors that helped Game of Thrones turn into the phenomenon it was by the end. Yes, we all remember how it ended, but, even after that we still sat in front of our TVs for more suffering with House of the Dragon, right? Some will say it’s because of the dragons, but that’s not it. Well, not all of it, anyway.

A good example is the scene in which Olenna Tyrell confesses to Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) that she was the one behind the Purple Wedding (remember, there are weddings of many colors in Westeros). How many gasps were uttered simultaneously at that moment? That’s because we, as a collective audience, love drama. It’s what gets us going, what makes us invest our emotions in a story and love the characters we love. Game of Thrones had George R.R. Martin’s superb mastermind behind it. For its benefit, La Reine Margot is originally a fictional adaptation of historical events written by none other than Alexandre Dumas, one of the masters of French literature, the one behind timeless works such as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. Dumas understands about plotting and betrayal and love and lust, and La Reine Margot is where all of those meet, much like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

The complex drama of Game of Thrones is so compelling not just because of the characters who carry it out, but also because of the production value of the series itself. Reading deals with imagination, but actually seeing places like Winterfell, the Red Keep, the Wall, and so on, is a huge point in favor of the screen adaptation. While Modern Age Paris didn’t have a lot going on for its benefit, La Reine Margot does make the most of what it had. Settings like the Louvre (which back then was the royal palace) are brought to life with many sections, corridors and hidden passages, enough to make Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) and young Rhaenyra go crazy exploring.

La Reine Margot-Isabelle Adjani as Queen Margot.

All that value is also added when talking about the visual aspects of production. La Reine Margot portrays one of the most infamous events in French history, St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, when a wedding was used as the pretext for a slaughter. So just like the Red Wedding, the movie required a big structure around it not only to make it happen, but also for it to look bloody and real enough. And it does, with much dueling, stabbing and beheading taking place all throughout the story.

What’s also good about La Reine Margot is also that, just like Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, it bears official recognition from the industry in the form of awards. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award of Best Costume Design in 1995, as well as for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. It also won the Jury Prize in Cannes, with Virna Lisi taking home the prize for Best Actress for her portrayal of Catherine de Medici, the Serpent Queen.

So La Reine Margot may not be a Hollywood production, but it does look like one, with huge sets, dozens of extras and well-designed sequences and characterization. There are no dragons, unfortunately, but it does make up for the lack of them with a compelling and very George R.R. Martin-like story.

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