The Horseman on the Roof

The Horseman on the Roof (Le Hussard sur le Toit) is a 1995 French film directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau. Starring Juliette Binoche and Olivier Martinez, it is based on the 1951 French novel, Le hussard sur le toit by Jean Giono.


The film explores two significant historical events: the 1832 cholera outbreak in southern France, and the efforts by Italians to wrest independence from Austrian control.

The main male character, Colonel Angelo Pardi, is an Italian nobleman with a purchased rank in the calvary (hence the "horseman" in the title), but is in France attempting to raise money for the revolution. Going through a number of close encounters as he avoids and escapes from Austrian spies, he eventually encounters the female lead, Pauline de Théus, wife of the Marquee de Théus, in her house in a city she is visiting. She has delayed her stay, awaiting her husband's return and provides Colonel Pardi shelter for the night. Evacuation of the city separates them, but a later meeting sees them banding together to accomplish their own objectives, his being at this time to return to Italy with his funds, she searching for her husband.


The movie won the César Awards for Best Cinematography (Thierry Arbogast) and Best Sound (Pierre Gamet, Jean Goudier, Dominique Hennequin), and was nominated for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Music Written for a Film (Jean-Claude Petit), Best Editing (Noëlle Boisson), Best Costume Design (Franca Squarciapino), Best Production Design (Jacques Rouxel, Ezio Frigerio, Christian Marti) and Most Promising Actress (Isabelle Carré).


Social Norms & Behaviors

The film is notable, considering our "modern" sensibilities, in that Colonel Pardi acts very honorably and respectively towards the Marquess de Théus in some very awkward and vulnerable situations. The movie is a good study showing one perspective on what might have, at the time, been considered proper treatment of and behavior towards a "lady".

In fact, the relationship could rightly be called platonic, but that seems too simple and one dimensional a word to use, for much, if not all, of the platonic nature stems from Colonel Pardi respecting the fact that Pauline is married. The relationship certainly does not, in the "modern" sense of the phrase, have the allure of the phrase "epic romance" that appears on the movie poster on this page. In fact, the picture on the poster implies an overt and visible aspect to the relationship, when in fact it is more subtle in nature. The movie portrays well the possibility of a relationship between a man and woman where they have emotions, but keep them in control, maintaining the proper behavior given their station in life.

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