The anarchist and the tyrant meet in this comedy drama set during Bonaparte's exile on Elba

N: Napoleon and Me

on December 31, 2007 by John P. McCarthy
Loosely based on the historical novel N by Ernesto Ferrero, this jocular and wise European import imagines an idealistic young man's encounter with the titular exiled emperor. With humor that is often quite broad and serious musings about power and the cult of personality conveyed with some harshness, what lies between gets overshadowed, especially for audience members forced to rely on the subtitles. Yet there's plenty to enjoy and absorb in the lively production.

In 1814, the sleepy island outpost of Elba is astir in anticipation of the arrival of the deposed Emperor Napoleon (Daniel Auteuil). No one is in a more agitated state than Martino Papucci (Elio Germano), a teacher and writer obsessed with revolutionary ideas. Whereas most of his fellow residents revere the celebrity soon to be in their midst (held under luxurious house arrest), Martino has a recurring dream in which he assassinates the Corsican tyrant.

The perfect opportunity to carry out this fantasy arises when he's asked to serve as Napoleon's personal secretary. Will he act on his ideological convictions, or will he be seduced by Bonaparte's charisma and wily charm? The situation is complicated by Martino's long-standing affair with a comely baroness (Monica Bellucci); and, meanwhile, he's too self-absorbed and preoccupied with lofty thoughts to notice that a servant girl in the quayside home he shares with his two siblings is madly in love with him.

Brimming with Harlequin buffoonery and political philosophizing, the eventful story features the shipwreck of Martino's brother and the violent demise of his anarchist mentor, plus a touching scene in which Napoleon is reunited with his childhood nurse. But all told, it comes off as more bitter than sweet. Any such judgment is subjective of course, and the movie is sophisticated enough to remain coy about what meaning, if any, Napoleon and Martino's interaction and respective fates might have in the grand scheme of things.
Distributor: No distributor set
Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Elio Germano, Monica Bellucci, Francesca Inaudi, Sabrina Impacciatore, Valerio Mastandrea
Director: Paolo Virzi
Screenwriters: Furio Scarpelli, Giacomo Scarpelli, Francesco Bruni and Paolo Virzi
Producers: Riccardo Tozzi, Giovanni Stabilini and Marco Chimenz
Genre: Historical comedy drama; Italian- and French-language, subtitled
Rating: Not yet rated
Running time: 110 min.
Release date: TBD
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