Paris, 1315. The Tour de Nesle, a guard tower on the banks of the Seine, has become a symbol of mystery and fear. Each morning, at its base, the bodies of handsome young aristocrats are found floating in the river, all butchered by sword or arrow. One evening, two noblemen, Buridan and Philippe d’Aulnay, find themselves in the infamous tower, lured there on the expectation of a night of unbridled passion. Little do they realise that they are to be the next victims of a woman who is determined to take revenge against all men – Margaret of Burgundy, the present Queen of France. Although Philippe is killed, Buridan escapes, and intends to blackmail the Queen. Unless she makes him her prime minister, he will expose her crimes to Philippe’s brother and her husband, King Louis X. When she moves to eliminate Burdan, Margaret makes a terrible discovery…
In the twilight years of his career, the great avant-garde film director Abel Gance made a number of films which, whilst not as grand and artistically inspired as his early silent masterpieces, still compared very favourably with the work of his contemporaries. Of these, La Tour de Nesle is a film that still stands up remarkably well today – an ambitious historical drama based on the famous 1832 play by Alexandre Dumas.
Needless to say, the film isn’t to be commended on its historical accuracy. As any historian will tell you, the Alexandre Dumas version of French history is wildly fanciful, to say the least. However, this doesn’t prevent La Tour de Nesle from being an entertaining and, at times, highly poignant, piece of cinema. Whilst the characterisation and dialogue leave much to be desired, the plot (a murky tale of cruel revenge and political intrigue) is gripping, and the film’s artistic design is exceptional for a film of this period. Gance brings a strangely expressionistic touch to his use of colour and shade, something which adds to the darkly sinister nature of the plot, whilst imbuing the film with a striking sense of historical realism. A propos, Gance’s assistant director Nelly Kaplan makes her screen début in a small role, shortly before she herself embarked on a successful film making career.
© James Travers 2008
692MB | 2h 03s | 720×576 | avi