Le hussard sur le toit (The Horseman on the Roof) (1995)






Starring:     Juliette Binoche (Pauline de Théus), Olivier Martinez (Angelo Pardi), Pierre Arditi (Monsieur Peyrolle). François Cluzet (The Doctor), Jean Yanne (Le Colporteur), Claudio Amendola (Maggionari), Isabelle Carré (The Tutor), Carlo Cecchi (Giuseppe), Christiane Cohendy (Madame Peyrolle), Jacques Sereys (The old man), Nathalie Krebs (Madame Barthelemy), Laura Marinoni (Carla), Elisabeth Margoni (The farmer's wife), Yolande Moreau (Madame Rigoard), Christophe Odent (Monsieur Barthelemy).

adventures of a young Italian nobleman in France raising money for the Italian revolution for independence against Austria during a time of cholera in southern France in 1832 (French and Italian languages)




Spoiler Warning:


Angelo Pardi, an Italian, acts as though he were a knight in shining armor, but he lives in the post-Napoleon days, not in the Medieval Ages.  There is talk about the young man fighting in a war, but what war?  The year 1832 is a relatively peaceful time.  Austria rules much of Italy, but there is no war going on between Austria and Italy.  It's a time of occupation.  This was a period of pushing nationalist sentiment for a unification of parts of Italy into a united Italy.  It's this nationalism that the Austrian Empire is seeking to repress.  And to repress this nationalist sentiment the Austrians will use some extreme measures.  They have a network of secret police that track down Italian nationalists.  They go even into other nations, like France, to grab nationalists and put them in jail in Austria.  Or they can simply execute the nationalist offenders. 

Angelo is warned by the wife of a nationalist that jher husbandhas just been executed by Austrian agents and that Angelo must run away.  Angelo leaves Aix, France located 30 km (19 mi) north of Marseille.  He wants to warn other nationalists that Austrian secret agents are out looking for them.  His journey through France is very much complicated by an epidemic of cholera in France that forces the evacuation of many French villages. 

Angelo wants to get to Manosque, which is northeast of Aix by 60 km (37 miles).    On his way he runs into his old friend Paolo Maggionari, who turns out to be working with the Austrian agents.  So Angelo has to fight to get away from them, which he manages to do.  When he arrives in Manosque all he finds are corpses.  He runs into a doctor on his way to the town and tells him there are only corpses in Manosque.  The doctor insists that there must be someone alive in the town.  Angelo goes with the doctor and they do find one man still alive.  Angelo holds down the man's hands and arms while the doctor pours medicine down his throat and then pours the medicine all over his body and starts massaging the man vigorously all over.  In the end, the man dies anyway.

And now the doctor becomes sick.  Angelo does what the doctor did for the other sick man, but, once again, the patient dies.  Angelo takes the medicines and leaves. 

Angelo stops to help a pretty nanny in charge of a small boy and girl.  He will take them to the next town, but they are captured and thrown into quarantine along with a lot of other people.  At night he and his charges escape.  Angelo takes them to where the children live.  He then goes on alone again.

In the town the people think that Angelo is trying to poison their water and they chase him all around the place.  He is rescued by the police and taken to the chief of police, who appears to be crazy.  The guys leaves and Angelo walks away.  He runs into the Austrian agents who try to shoot him, but he gets away from them.  Then Angelo gets chased again by the rabid populace.  Angelo only gets away by climbing up on the rooftops of the many buildings and hiding there.  His only company is a stray cat.

At night it starts raining, so Angelo drops down through a sky light into an attic.  There he roams around until he spots a pretty woman in the house.  She sees him and he tells her not to be afraid for he is a gentleman.  The woman, Pauline, says she's not afraid of him at all.  She asks him to stay for supper. 

Angelo falls asleep at the dining room table.  In the morning, he can't find Pauline.  Then he is forced to evacuate the house and moves along with great masses of people through the streets, being pushed by French soldiers.  As he passes by the mansion where the nanny lives, he goes inside the evacuated house to see if he can find them.  He finds them, but they are all dead from cholera. 

Angelo runs into his old friend Giuseppe and then goes with him.  Maggionari kills one of the Austrian agents in a dispute. 

Angelo asks Giuseppe to get him a good horse and he can get out of here and go to Italy.  Giuseppe gives Angelo lots of money to take back to Italy with him for the cause of freedom.  Angelo now gets his horse.  In the morning, he takes off.

Riding along a shallow river bed, Maggionari and Angelo spot each other.  Angelo gives chase.  Maggionari falls off his horse and then climbs up on the river bank.  Angelo starts to treat the man for cholera.  Pauline is with other people on top of the river bank.  She watches what's going on.  Maggionari dies anyway.  Angelo's horse got away from him, but Pauline has the horse and is waiting for Angelo.  They are reunited.  She has a horse and they both start riding off headed for separate destinations.  The reach a road block, but they fight their way through it and get away.

They are up in the mountains.  Pauline says she is headed now for Sisteron to go to Gap, while he is to go to Digne for connections to Italy.  She thanks him and leaves.  As she rides along she stops.  Angelo suddenly shows up and takes her to a hiding place where they just watch the cavalry patrol go by them.

Angelo insists on accompanying Pauline to her destination.  He says that's the way he was raised and it's his duty to help a damsel in distress.  They get to know each other as they camp for the night. 

In the morning they go on their separate ways again.  They run into a traveling salesman who seems to be a very shady character.  For money the salesman says he will take them to Montjay.  [Montjay is a commune in the Saône-et-Loire department in the region of Bourgogne in eastern France, not too far from Switzerland.]  Pauline knows the Mayor of Montjay. 

They go to Montjay and Pauline goes alone up to the Mayor's house.  They are having a fancy dinner party, but Pauline is warmly welcomed into their house.  That is, until they discover that she has been in places plagued by cholera.  Then they all avoid her like the plague.  The Mayor says Pauline is a murderer who should be in jail or quarantine.  Now Angelo shows up and he says he tended to those sick from cholera.  Now the people all leave the room. 

After awhile, the police arrive and Pauline and Angelo have to make a run for it.  They catch up with the salesman and take back the money he stole from them while they were in the mansion.  Then the frightened salesman runs off. 

Pauline and Angelo sleep in an abandoned church.  By now Angelo knows that Pauline is married and owns a castle along with her husband.  Pauline is now going to go back to Manosque by herself.  She gets on her horse and rides off, despite the efforts of Angelo to stop her.

The problem is that Pauline runs into troops that chase her and catch her.  Angelo has followed her and now he finds her with the troops.  They put Pauline in quarantine in a cell.  Angelo gets himself arrested and he is put in quarantine. Because of the money he has, he gets the royal treatment for someone in quarantine.  Later, Angelo sets a large fire and the people rush to get out.  Pauline and Angelo go with the crowd and are able to escape.  They literally walk out of the jail land start walking to the next town.  They get a ride in a cart.  Then they walk toward  Théus, a commune in the Hautes-Alpes department in southeastern France.  That's where her castle is located. 

They are so tired that they stay in a small abandoned mansion.  She doesn't want him to leave tomorrow to go to Italy, but Angelo says he's going.  Before the fire they drink heated wine.  Pauline says her husband is 40 years older than her.  Angelo has not reaction about the age difference and Pauline asks him:  "Am I nothing to you?"  Angelo says, no.   She then asks Angelo to tell her about himself for he has said almost nothing of import.  Angelo refuses and says he is going to leave now.  Pauline then tells him to go now.  Angelo gets his stuff ready, but now Pauline shows symptoms of cholera and Angelo is going to try to save her life once again. 

He starts tearing her clothes off  until she is completely naked.  (Some nudity.)  He then rubs her body down with the wine.   

In the morning when Angelo awakens he is surprised to see that Pauline is still alive. 

Now Angelo puts her in the back of a wagon and has a horse pull the cart along until they reach the castle.  People who work at the castle follow along with the horse and cart.  Then Pauline's husband comes riding up to the cart.

Angelo has been gone now for awhile.  Pauline keeps writing him letters, but he seldom communicates with her.  She says in one letter that she heard about the uprising in Italy and asks if Angelo was a part of it?

After a year, the cholera has disappeared.  Pauline and her husband go back to Aix.  Pauline, however, doesn't look happy. 

The narrator says:  "Pauline received no reply for a long time.  She had given up hope when the following year a letter arrived from Italy.  Laurent [her husband] knew even before Pauline that Angelo's memory would not fade.  He knew that if she chose to go to him, he would open his hand and let her go."


There's not really much historical context in the film.  It's not quite clear why the hero Angelo is running from the Austrians and why the Austrians are in France.  Check the dates below in the Historical Background.  The story is mainly a love story between the Italian Angelo and  and the French Pauline, but throughout most of the film, the two never really come together.  And you don't clearly understand that until you read the subtitles on the interview with the director, who says that Angelo was playing the role of the good Knight back in the Medieval Ages.  He compares the couple to Tristan and Isolde, where Tristan won't touch Isolde because she belongs to the King. 

Well, I would have preferred not such a puritanical Knight.  Nevertheless, my wife and I both enjoyed the whole two hours and seven minutes film.  Angelo is very handsome and Pauline is very pretty and they often seem to be coming together, which keeps up the tension in the film.  I was disappointed with the ending, but what can you do when the male character thinks he's a Medieval Knight in Shining Armor?   

Juliette Binoche (Pauline de Théus) and Olivier Martinez (Angelo Pardi) were both very good in their roles.   Nice scenery in the film and some good horseback riding by the two main characters. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 



Historical Background:


Info below from Wikipedia.


475AD to 1559:  Middle Ages. 


1494-1559  --  Italian Wars.



1559-1814  --  Foreign domination of Italy. 

1508 to 1516  --  War of the League of Cambrai.

1559 to 1713  --  long period of relative peace under Habsburg Spain.

1713 to 1796  --  long period of relative peace under Habsburg Austria.

1796-1814    -- Napoleonic invasion of Italy.  They aim to force Austria to withdraw from Italy. 

1797  --  Napoleon signs the Treaty of Campo Formio, by which the Republic of Venice was annexed to the Austrian state

1802  --  Cisalpine Republic is converted into the Italian Republic, under the presidency of Napoleon.

1805  --  Napoleon recovers Veneto and Dalmatia, annexing them to the Italian Republic and renaming it the Kingdom of Italy.

1806  --  Napoleon conquers the Kingdom of Naples.

1808  --  Napoleon annexes Marche and Tuscany to the Kingdom of Italy.

1809  --  Bonaparte occupies Rome.

1813  --  states of Europe re-ally themselves and defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig, after which his Italian allied states abandoned him to ally with Austria.

1814  --  Napoleon is defeated at Paris.

1814  --  Congress of Vienna.  Restores a situation close to that of 1795.  Divides Italy between Austria (in the north-east and Lombardy), the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (in the south and in Sicily), and Tuscany, the Papal States and other minor states in the center. Venice goes to Austria, and Genoa goes to the Kingdom of Sardinia.



1814-1861  --  Unification of Italy. 

The struggle for Italian unification was perceived to be waged primarily against the Austrian Empire and the Habsburgs, since they directly controlled the predominantly Italian-speaking northeastern part of present-day Italy and were the single most powerful force against unification.

The Austrian Empire vigorously repressed nationalist sentiment growing on the Italian peninsula, as well as in the other parts of Habsburg domains.

1827  -- publication of perhaps the most famous of Italilan proto-nationalist works was Alessandro Manzoni's I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed),  a thinly veiled allegorical critique of Austrian rule.

1831  --  nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini is released from prison.  He goes to Marseille, where he organizes a new political society called La Giovine Italia (Young Italy). The new society, whose motto is "God and the People," seeks the unification of Italy.

1832  --  in the movie The Horseman on the Roof  the Austrian agents were trying to kill Angelo Pardi and others who were pushing proto-nationalist sentiments in Italy. 

1848-1849  --  First Italian War of Independence against Austria.




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