young man and a young woman run in slow motion along a hall. He, long-haired and flamboyantly dressed, looks like he might be in a glam rock band in the 70s. She, a hippy-chick groupie perhaps, wide-eyed and golden-curled, wears something floaty and see-through. The hall is long, and opulent, gold all over the place. Plus mirrors, lots of mirrors.
Now they’ve found a room, the clothes are gone, and she’s on top, still in slow-mo. And she’s got an orange, she’s squeezing it on him. Sticky! Pippy, perhaps? He seem to be enjoying it, though. Juicy!
Versailles recap: episode one – certain to ruffle some ruffles
Not the 70s, quite. ’67: 1667. Versailles (BBC2), you may have guessed from the mirrors (and titles). And actually a dream (I’ve had similar ones). “You dream of paradise,” Anne of Austria tells her son, Louis, in his dream. “But you must build it for yourself, and let the world know Louis the Great has arrived.” Not long, before he arrives, so to speak, things get stickier still. Also, quite complicated, having your mum in a dream like that, no?
He’s Louis XIV of course. And he sets about building that dream, building his palace with the long, mirrored hall, and his absolute monarchy away from the dangers of Paris and plotting noblemen. Making plenty more love, too, with plenty more ladies. First, there’s official Mrs the Fourteenth, Spanish and pregnant, not a barrel of laughs but luckily by no means exclusive.
This Henriette looks more fun, emerging from the lake in something so clingy and see-through she may as well not be wearing anything … oh, now she’s not, nor is Louis, and they’re at it. No fruit this time. Next, he’s got a handful of someone else, Louise, at Mass (presumably why she later self-flagellates as penance). And still Louis’s eyes wander; there’ll be more, you’ll see. Louis the Phwoarteenth.
All true, too – well mostly true, then stretched a little, for extra fun, you’ll know if you saw The Real Versailles on BBC2 the other day. Catch up if you didn’t, it’s useful background. When I did Louis XIV at school it wasn’t half as entertaining – all about difficult noblemen and Spaniards, I seem to remember.
Turns out wet Henriette is actually married to Louis’s brother Philippe: that’s also complicated. But here’s Philippe giving a blowy to Monsieur Chevalier. I think – everyone looks the same, and like they’re in the same glam rock band. Louis’s valet, Bontemps, is about the only person who doesn’t seem to be having a good time, ironically. It’s a wonder Versailles got built at all. Well, there are peasants to do that, they’re not having a good time.
It’s not (quite) all about sex. Those noblemen do feature, plotting against the king. Paranoid, he puts together a team to intercept, unseal and read mail, searching for dissent, potential terrorism; an early French version of the NSA. And they – the noblemen – aren’t paying their taxes … there’s modern relevance all over the place, Snowden and the Panama Papers! I like the way they dealt with tax evasion back then: hand cleavered off by Fabien Marchal the hitman.
Here are some Spaniards, too, sent to assassinate Louis but intercepted by Fabien. He stabs one, then stamps his head into the mud. Another has his head bashed in with a hammer. I worry for the one who’s still alive. See, it’s not just about sex: there’s violence too.
If it’s nuance you’re after, depth of character, or meticulous authenticity, then you may be in the wrong place (though it does look splendid – good work director of photography Pierre-Yves Bastard). Wolf Hall this isn’t, though it does have actual wolves, aaaoooorrooow. More like Jeu de Trones meets Emmanuelle. It is a French Canal+ production, made in English in order to recoup from international sales the £21m it cost to make (Versailles shouts international sales from its gilded rooftop). With a cast from all over – I’m getting English, Scottish, Welsh, Canadian, German. Some French people must be loathing it, having their magnificent history not only turned into a vulgar spectacle, but one in English. I see it’s been branded “porn dressed up in cravat and tights” here, and that a Tory MP is cross about it. I thought Tory MPs liked that kind of thing, especially with oranges …
I’m enjoying Versailles. It is a trashy, extravagant romp that takes liberties with the actuality. It is also, undeniably, quite a lot of fun.
Versailles S01e01 Srt Sub Subtitle Download
Torture, espionage, wet-look camisoles, slavering wolves, adultery, self-flagellation, incest and an epic gardening project – Versailles (BBC Two) has got the lot. An all-you-can-eat buffet of everything a historical drama will ever need, but it’s lacking one ingredient – alas somewhat important – which is characters worth keeping your eyelids open for.
The recipe is familiar from previous international dramas in wigs and doublets (see also The Tudors). Take a historical era with box-office brand value, remove the tedious bits about canon law and excise duties, and focus on the sex, violence and intrigue, sometimes simultaneously.
There’s plenty in the dynastic creation story of Versailles. Thus we found lusty king Louis XIV (George Blagden) busily covering the court’s supply of young brood mares, including the wife of his brother Philippe (Alexander Vlahos), who was more focused on being the willing play-thing of the Chevalier de Lorraine (Evan Williams) and overspending on footwear.
Around them a posse of aristocrats plotted to avoid tax and get the court back to Paris, while the king’s security henchman Fabien Marchal (Tygh Runyan) kept him safe by steaming open everyone’s mail and wielding a variety of implements, some sharp, others blunt, according to need.
This is the Franco-Canadian creation of David Wolstencroft, who gave you Spooks, and Simon Mirren. Its vaguely French signifiers include lustrous hair that makes everyone look identical and no one batting an eyelid at all the frotting in corridors.
The cast, which one’s not quite heard of, speak franglais in a mulch of transatlantic accents. Viewers in France were at least given the option of a dubbed version to subdue the hokum.
The intrigue, as we might expect, is probably the most interesting element of Versailles, and the entire attention-seeking soufflé looks suitably splendid, as it should on a budget of £24 million. It just feels as if it could afford to be a little less portentous.
Nor is it quite clear what’s in it for British audiences who have not yet been told that Philippe’s wet-look wife Henriette (Noémie Schmidt), also Louis’s mistress, is the daughter of our very own Charles I.
“The Borgias” was a lusty series about poison and duplicity; “The Tudors” was a lusty series about sex, lies and executions. “Versailles” is a series about real estate.
The 10-episode series, said to be the most expensive series produced in France, premieres on the Ovation channel with back-to-back episodes on Saturday, Oct. 1, and uses the expansion of the royal hunting lodge at Versailles into the grandest palace in Europe as a backdrop for Louis XIV coming into his own as king of France.
Louis (George Blagden) is a young man as the series begins, but he’s already been king since he was 4 and is driven by the fact that he barely knew his father. At this point in what would be a very long reign, he is married to Queen Marie Thérèse of Spain (Elisa Lasowski), but theirs is hardly a love match. For Louis, the queen is merely a vessel for ensuring the Bourbon lineage. Meanwhile, he dallies daily with other women, but mostly his sister-in-law, Henriette (Noémie Schmidt). His brother Philippe (Alexander Vlahos) doesn’t mind all that much because he is generally occupied with his lover Chevalier (Evan Williams) or any other young, willing male in the court.
Louis is determined to make Versailles the primary royal palace, but many in the court, including the queen, are against the idea. They miss the sophistication and gaiety of Paris, so much so that the expansion of the hunting lodge sparks more serious dissension among some members of the court who begin plotting against Louis.
The first four episodes of the series are rather talky, although heaven knows there are moments of eye-opening action of the carnal variety.
As for other varieties of action, when Louis sends Philippe to lead the French troops in battle, we don’t even see the battle — just the aftermath, with a bunch of extras playing dead on the battlefield.
But the talk, at least, is revealing and sophisticated, not to mention often filled with intrigue. As Louis and his advisers plot strategy against the Spanish and other factions, he is evolving as a character, finding his footing as king. The more he realizes how few people he can really trust, the stronger and at times more merciless he becomes. When the queen betrays him, he takes his time, using her infidelity as a way to manipulate a strategic alliance with the new king of an African nation. After sending Philippe into battle, he agonizes between his personal concern about Philippe’s safety and his duty as the king of France. But is there also perhaps another point of conflict in the king’s mind? If Philippe were to be killed, he could make Henriette entirely his, if he could figure out a way to dump the Spanish queen.
The series was created by Simon Mirren and David Wolstencroft, and in spite of the fact they rely heavily on talk and even on talk about real estate, they have created powerful and compelling characters to hold our attention. There are moments — blessedly few, thank goodness — when “Versailles” seems to want to make a pitch for French culture and tourism. We see that in particular when Louis outlines his plans for Versailles, and at an even more awkward moment when he orates about a coming revolution. For a moment, we think he’s somehow looking ahead more than a century to the French Revolution of 1789. Mais non. He’s talking a far more important revolution: the dawn of a future age when France will be the world’s foremost center of fashion.
Well, in the meantime, we can be more than content with the jaw-dropping costume designs by Madeline Fontaine in the series produced by France, England and Canada.
The performances are quite good, especially Blagden, Lasowski, Vlahos, Stuart Bowman as the king’s valet and most trusted friend, Tygh Runyan as the king’s chief of police, and Amira Casar as the conniving Beatrice, who shamelessly pushes her daughter Sophie (Maddison Jaizani) under the king’s nose at every opportunity, in hope that she’ll soon be under him in more socially advantageous ways.
Well, what else can Bourbon courtiers do, stuck out in the middle of nowhere, years before the invention of the Metro and the RER?
In the end, even in the 17th century, it’s all about location, location, location.