Film Recommendation/Review of “Vatel” (a film with Tim Roth), & how 17th century royalty differs not from politicians today
I tend to rarely view period pieces, but this is one I am oh so glad I did: Vatel (Its official trailer at the end of this piece). The film, based on a true story set in France 1671, does an excellent job of conveying a story of jealousy, lavishness, and arrogance. It’s got romance, intrigue, sycophancy, a tad of humor, and the ever common blatant display of disgusting arrogance by those with power. It’s really a masterpiece of director Roland Joffé.
The film spared no production expense by the looks of it in its sets and costumes. Most impressive not only the shows of entertainment intended to please the king, but the painstaking preparation of so much food that Vatel (as chef for the prince) oversees. But the film’s lavish period detail with all its opulence, is NOT what makes this film one I recommend…it is the story…the plot…and its relevance to society today. The interplay of personalities, the character of each, is the focus amidst the great extravaganza.
As far as I can see – nothing has changed when it comes to people’s adulation of the “special” people who rule over them. It matters not how they suffer, the premise of their ruling power along with acceptance of their unworthy motives for war to gain an economic boost for their region, remains identical today. Almost everyone loves war…it means money – then and now. And most of the common people, due to their economic enslavement by the ruling class, care not how the financial tidbits are obtained but just that they are…thus the spoils of war was the motive then and now.
The alliances formed between the governmental rulers of the world in order to get their piece of the financial boom war provides knows no boundaries…as we see In Vatel where the obsequious and indebted Prince de Conde does everything he can to worship and please to no end the exalted King Louis XIV, including, of course, directing his faithful and amazingly competent and creative Francois Vatel (Gerard Depardieu) to behave as servile as possible to the whims of the visiting King and his entourage as he executes the festivities and banquets. It is a general’s commission Prince de Condé seeks.
Meanwhile, the king’s envoy, Marquis de Lauzun (Tim Roth), has his eye upon the king’s new mistress and love interest of Vatel: Anne de Montausier (Uma Thurman).
Now what makes this story most interesting is 1. Learning the historical biography of Vatel and other characters – as films based on true stories are an excellent opportunity to read of those and their times you may not have otherwise explored 2. Change the names and the clothing, and this is the story repeated day in day out across the world.
Are the parties given by and for heads of state any different today? Are the reasons behind them any different? And is the relationship of the working people to their leaders any different? Such shows of opulence by world leaders is common, and such worship by those “beneath” them a given.
It’s not just the relationship of international rulers to “their” people in which we find this perverse relationship between the struggling and the powerful, but even in the smallest of communities where they go all out for a visiting “representative,” acting as if royalty is coming to town. And, that, is precisely what both the politicians adore and the masses of people bestow upon them.Anyone who thinks the worship of other human beings as “royalty” is an experience pertaining to only monarchies has never looked unquestioningly at the behavior of most people toward their governmental rulers. There’s nothing different in the slightest.
I view this man of goodwill, honor, and incredible talent, Vatel, as exemplifying all good men who find themselves entwined in the dirty world of politics to any degree – you will not come out unscathed, happy, or truly appreciated. To associate with those in politics in any capacity is to subject oneself to their world – and its not one of peace, love, and faithfulness. It’s a world where agendas trump principle…and thus no place for a man of principle if he seeks to live a wholesome life.
Roth’s performance as another dastardly scoundrel is perfect. His expressions, as they often do, saying far more than his words.
Gérard Depardieu as Vatel (historically referred to as “the prince of cooks”) is beautifully and tenderly performed.
Anyone watching this who finds themselves disgusted with the decadence of the royalty of that time, would do well to take a closer look at the illusions they believe in their regard for their politicians of today…for you are nothing more than their means to their wealth. Monarchy or democracy or republic, it makes no difference, the people comprising any government-anywhere-anytime- are focused on their interests, not yours.