The Princess de Montpensier, by Madame de Lafayette (and now Bertrand Tavernier)

Princesse de Montpensier Melanie Thierry

Princesse de Montpensier: Melanie Thierry

Madame de Lafayette’s most famous work is -righty- the Princess de Clèves, mais she also wrote memoirs and short stories. One of them, the Princess de Montpensier, is available online in English as well as the beautiful, original 17th century French version.

Montpensier does not show the same mastery as Clèves, written 16 years years later, but it foreshadows the great 17th century novel. Like it, it is a work of historical fiction, set in the 16th century, this time during the Wars of Religion that tore France apart during the reigns of the last Kings of the Valois dynasty. Here already Madame de Lafayette makes the exploration of a woman’s feelings her central theme.

Princesse de Montpensier Melanie Thierry

The Princesse de Montpensier: Melanie Thierry

Princesse de Montpensier was recently turned into a film of the same name by veteran director Bertrand Tavernier (In the Electric Mist). The plot follows Madame de Lafayette’s story: Madame de Montpensier (Mélanie Thierry) is caught between the exigencies of her forced marriage to a jealous husband (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet), often called away by war, her longtime passion for a cad (Gaspard Ulliel, as the Duc de Guise), and the devotion of a third man (Lambert Wilson, as the Comte de Chabannes) who truly loves her.

Montpensier was presented at the 2010 Cannes Festival, where it garnered mostly lukewarm reviews, though critics agreed on the visual appeal of the film. To be released shortly in Europe. In the meantime, here is the trailer…

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11 Comments to “The Princess de Montpensier, by Madame de Lafayette (and now Bertrand Tavernier)”

  1. Jenny says:

    I first became aware of this film, when I was leaving France after my first visit, in March and April 2011. Saw quite a bit of it on the plane, but definitely made sure I got to a screening of it at Nova (Melbourne, Australia) to see this magnificent film again without interruptions. Beautiful production, and such an intriguing and absorbing story, I was impressed. May more good French films be made, despite all the crazy economic doom and gloom … regards, Jenny

  2. MaryAnn Crowe says:

    [this has typos corrected. thanks!]

    Thank you very much for the link to Madame de Lafayette’s original version based on a “true” story.

    The Princess of Montpensier’s premiered in the Santa Fe Fall 2010 Film Festival, and has returned here through this weekend. During the fall Film Festival screening, noted screenwriter Kirk Ellis (HBO John Adams series, etc.) interviewed the camerman/cinematographer…for those of us unfamiliar with the French Wars of Religion, it was not only illuminating to learn that earlier century’s “Rules of Engagement” spared ovens –because they produced food– and pregnant women, from slaughter. This is important for understanding a key character, the Huguenot count portrayed by Lambert Wilson, in role with similarities to his compelling monk in the Academy Award nominated Of Gods And Men.

    Visually, the beautiful P. of M. is like seeing the tapestries of the Cluny come to life, with the violent battle scenes bearing more resemblance to the Metropolitan Museum’s 2002 Tapestry in the Renassaince: Art and Magnificance. P. of M. reminds me of The Leopard, for its sense of time and place; it is also inspired by the life of a young woman, though Bertrand T. shows more sympathy toward her than her closer contemporary, Madame de Layfayette.

    This film is much more than a love triangle/quadrangle. I don’t recommend P.of M. for the violence, but it does help to explain why the French separation of Church and State has evolved differently to maintain those boundaries… MaryAnn Crowe

  3. marie says:

    Where is showing in london, would like to see it. Under which title I could read the real story on the webside.


  4. Penny says:

    I have finished the book and the movie clips are really there for a tease or maybe they don’t understand that a woman could love w/o touching being involved? but I found the book to be a mere skeleton of later Princess de Cleves which is magnificent. At only 35 pages, it is hard or impossible to develop full characters and I felt it was harshly moralistic. forgive me Catherine, I was disappointed.

  5. Penny says:

    I am reading it little by little on Project Gutenberg and I love it. Reminds me of the later Princess de Cleves. A morality tale, this little ad doesn’t do it justice, it makes her look like a tease in a romance which is not the novel’s intention. Love the French though. It sounds so much better than the development of the English language, fyi.

  6. This is the original text. I am a fondness for 17th century French. Actually the film may be out in the UK before France. Very well done visually. For the rest, the critics are not kind, and I will wait until I see it…

  7. Miss Moppet says:

    I read this a couple of years ago, in a modern French pocket edition which also has The Comtesse de (du?) Tende. It’s a lovely short story and full of interesting details about how exactly aristocratic lovers did manage to meet up in secret. I hadn’t heard about the film but it looks beautiful.

  8. Penny says:

    I add my gratitude for bringing this to our attention. I will try to read it online
    and let’s hope no more hacking of this beautiful blog

  9. ellen moody says:

    Thank you very much from me too. I’ll keep an eye out for it. Ellen

  10. I haven’t seen the film, Sylwia (release date November 2010 in France, earlier in the UK) and can’t say in any detail what is shown. The Wars of Religion indeed form the background of Madame de Lafayette’s story. One of the protagonists is the famous Duc de Guise, and another is killed during the St. Bartholomew.

  11. Sylwia says:

    Thanks for the info, Catherine. I hope they’ll show it in Poland. Henri III being one of our kings et al, people would be curious about France at that time. Are the Wars of Religion shown or talked of? The St Bartholomew’s night?

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