The French Revolution

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On July 14, 1789, only a few years after France helped colonists in America win their freedom from Great Britain, a band of Parisian rebels staged an attack on the Bastille, looting needed supplies of food and materiel after the increasingly callous French authorities ignored their pleas. A decade of idealism, war, murder, and carnage followed, bringing about the end of feudalism and the rise of equality and a new world order. The French Revolution is a definitive feature length documentary that encapsulates this heady (and often headless) period in Western civilization. With dramatic reenactments, illustrations, and paintings from the era, plus revealing accounts from journals and expert commentary from historians, The French Revolution vividly unfurls in a maelstrom of violence, discontent, and fundamental change. The documentary dovers the key figures of the Revolution, including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who ruled unaware of the depth of anger of their subjects; Maximillian Robespierre, the lawyer turned revolutionary who resorted to violence to preserve the new Republic; Georges Danton, Robespierre’s ally, whose calls for ending the violence would lead to his own violent end; Jean-Paul Marat, the newspaperman who fanned the flames of the Revolution and would be turned into a martyr after he was murdered; and Charlotte Corday, the woman who murdered Marat, hoping his death would put an end to the violence. 18th Century France was the richest nation on Earth, with the most powerful King, the best educated population and the strongest army in Europe. But a perfect storm of discontent was brewing. On one hand, King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, lived a decadent lifestyle in their Versailles palace. In Paris, the idea of equality spawned from the Age of Enlightenment was taking shape. The French economy headed south, due to constraints from aiding the Americans against France’s bitter enemy, England. A bitter winter and a poor harvest left the average French citizen hungry, and growing increasingly resentful. Anger turned to rage, and rage turned into violence. This documentary takes viewers through the dramatic step by step escalation of the revolution, from the formation of the National Assembly to the storming of the Bastille, the women’s march on Versailles to the detainment of the king and queen. It follows Robespierre growing fanaticism, from devout anti-capital punishment crusader to deciding that in order for the democratic Republic to move forward, the king and all who stood in the way of his bold plans for a new nation based on virtue and equality must be executed by the guillotine in a time known as “The Terror”. The documentary chronicles how his revolution resorted to extreme ideals that created a state in which neighbor feared neighbor, the Catholic Church was abolished, thousands were put to death, and how this state of affairs would eventually cause his own bloody demise and relegate him a fanatic in the annals of history. The Terror may have died with Robespierre, but the revolution did not. The accomplishments of the revolution would far outlive any of the revolutionaries themselves. After Robespierre’s execution in 1794, France would enter a period of uncertainty, frozen between fear of another terror, or worse yet, a return to the oppressive monarchy that preceded it. After five stagnant years, power once again consolidated in the hands of a single man, Napoleon Bonaparte. The program features dramatic reenactments, illustrations and paintings from the era, accounts from journals and expert commentary from historians to propel to narrative. Narrated by Edward Herrmann.