Bodies flit through the night, a carriage raid doesn’t go as planned, and a young Gascon named D’Artagnan, who tried to help a damsel in distress, ends up buried in the woods right at the beginning of the new adaptation of The Three Musketeers. Fortunately, it turns out that not only zombies have the ability to climb out of the grave. And so, within a moment, the hero once again gets the opportunity to anger Athos, Porthos and Aramis and challenge them to a sword fight.
The adventure-romantic novel The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas was one of the most popular reads at the time of its publication, i.e. in 1844, and like any good bestseller, it received many film adaptations. In general, the most popular is Richard Lester’s adaptation from 1973 with Michael York in the role of D’Artagnan, Richard Chamberlain playing Aramis, Charton Heston as Cardinal Richelieu and Raquel Welch, who embodied the chambermaid Constance. The British director brought a comedic perspective to the expensive co-production and, despite the obviously ironic approach to the original, made a light-footed, but at the right moments appropriately adventurous story about the power of friendship.
There were many other versions, in addition to the most famous, for example, the Ukrainian-Russian musical from 2004, where the three musketeers were at the head and the only man of the indomitable party of swordsmen was Volodymyr Zelenskyj as D’Artagnan. But the French themselves rarely took up the fabric. After the well-known two-part adaptation from 1961 with actors Gérard Barray and Mylène Demongeot, now after long decades came an opulent correction.
The new two-part film, the first part of which, entitled The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan, has been showing in Czech cinemas since last Thursday, is one of the most expensive French films of all time, with a budget of around 64 million euros, equivalent to 1.5 billion crowns. And although the opening scene of the nighttime kidnapping may leave the audience in doubt as to whether it will be an overly ambitious, would-be rough spectacle, director Martin Bourboulon hit the right tone. In the end, the fact that not all scenery looks perfect and polished is a plus, on the contrary, the picture offers a dirty period patina.
The star-studded project precisely mixes enchanting, modernly filmed action scenes with romance and witty verbal exchanges. Only occasionally, but with due weight, does he let the politics of the time be heard, in order to give preference to the escapades of the heroes.
Thirty-three-year-old François Civil plays D’Artagnan as a frivolous young man with a heart in the right place. He can be disarming in an instant, his first acquaintance with the city where he has just arrived takes the form of a spontaneous situational scene. He gradually manages to insult Athos, Porthos and Aramis, after which the saps become friends in no time.
François Civil jako D’Artagnan a Lyna Khoudri v roli Constance Bonacieux. | Photo: Bioscop
These are all familiar moments seen repeatedly in previous adaptations. However, as soon as instead of a trio of sword fights between a young man and three musketeers, there is a mass battle between these four with a guard of soldiers passing by, it is immediately clear how different the news will be.
The fight in the middle of the forest is shot in contact, Nicolas Bolduc’s camera sticks to the bodies of the heroes and draws the audience into the fray as one of the participants. Despite all the physicality, the fight remains clear, and above all, it constantly leaves room for perspective, with which the heroes face death. At the same time, screenwriters Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de La Patellière think that they are telling a rather dark and violent story with a tragic undertone at the core, that they are capturing the turning point of the first half of the 17th century, when things are changing.
When Athos faces charges because he was found in bed next to a dead woman in the morning, he does not deny guilt – even though he is threatened with death. When asked if he killed her, he says he doesn’t know. The face of the most mysterious of Dumas’s musketeers shows the pride and inscrutable features given to him by Vincent Cassel. And similarly, the crew takes its time to devote itself to the characterization of all the protagonists.
Although it is only the first part of a two-part story, the creators manage to play out a thriller in which carefree adventure and a sense of honor nevertheless collide with the atmosphere of an uncertain time when the French kingdom not only faces the threat of a British invasion, but is itself divided by religious wars. In contrast to many earlier “family” versions, this time history does not only serve as a supplement to the fights on the strings.
On the contrary, director Bourboulon is able to skip the key battle at the appropriate moment and prefer to observe Athos waiting in the solitude of the basement dungeon for the outcome of the mission that may decide his fate. After all, Dumas himself allegedly liked to write fight scenes the least of all.
Louis Garrel as King Louis XIII, Vincent Cassel as Athos and François Civil as D’Artagnan. | Photo: Bioscop
The expensive film made many famous actors put on period costume or cover themselves with hair and beards.
Thirty-nine-year-old Louis Garrel gave the right youthful charm but also mystery to King Louis XIII. Although Eva Green will only get the space to breathe a richer inner dimension into her diabolical Milady de Winter in the upcoming second part, she already manages to be a sufficiently mysterious character who does not play according to socially prescribed notes.
The only major flaw of the latest adaptation of The Three Musketeers is that it ends in the middle of the action – literally in the most exciting part. Otherwise, it is a unique adaptation that makes your head spin at the right moments. Whether it’s battles recorded in a single shot or spontaneous masquerade.
It’s not just a history-scented adventure story filmed somewhere in the studio. This film smells – but much more often smells – of real Paris.
The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan
Directed by: Martin Bourboulon
Bioscop, Czech premiere on April 6.
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