Napoleon (2002)

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Released 15-Aug-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Biographies-Cast
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 361:20
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Yves Simoneau

MRA Entertainment
Starring Christian Clavier
Isabella Rossellini
Gérard Depardieu
John Malkovich
Anouk Aimée
Heino Ferch
Sebastian Koch
Ennio Fantastichini
Guillaume Depardieu
Mavie Hörbiger
Alexandra Maria Lara
Toby Stephens
Marie Bäumer
Case Slip Case
RPI $34.95 Music Richard Grégoire

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Napoleon is a name which conjures up many different mental images. He has been portrayed so often as a little man with his hand stuck inside his jacket that this is the first thing you think of. I am happy to report that I cannot recall seeing him with his hand in his jacket throughout the 6 hours of this mini-series, although he is still little (as you would expect considering he was a short man). This is a serious portrait of the man, his life, strengths, foibles, successes and failures. It is a European co-production filmed in France but also in Morocco, the Czech republic, Hungary, Austria and even a bit in Canada. At the time it was made it was the most expensive European TV production ever.

    The plot, of course, is a dramatisation of the life of Napoleon, French General, Emperor and conqueror of Europe. The show includes all of this but also covers his personal life including his love for Josephine and other women, his difficult relationship with his family including his mother and his friendships and his ongoing battles with other crowned heads of Europe and even members of his own government. The leading characters are Napoleon himself (wonderfully played by Christian Clavier, probably best known as the esquire in Les Visiteurs with Jean Reno), his wife Josephine de Beauharnais (Isabella Rossellini), Joseph Fouche (Gerard Depardieu), the Minister of Police, Charles Talleyrand (John Malkovich), Napoleon's minister of Foreign Affairs and Maréchal Joachim Murat (Claudio Amendola), one of Napoleon's most famous military leaders.

    The show is broken into four 90 minute episodes and covers his life from his rise to prominence by putting down riots in Paris, through to his death. His childhood and early life are not covered in detail although some flashbacks occur during the show, especially to his time in a military academy. The show has extremely high production values including spectacular sets and costumes, incredibly realistic battle recreations with thousands of extras and is dramatic and interesting throughout its six hour running time. My main criticism of the show is that it does not always have a clear narrative, sometimes relying too much on the audience's knowledge of the story. This is especially true in the first episode which is a little confusing. Sometimes it feels like they are recounting specific episodes in his life rather than a comprehensive life story. Despite this, I found it to be a very interesting show, and certainly not boring. To be fair, someone who achieved as much as Napoleon is hard to encapsulate, even over six hours. The acting is certainly first rate throughout with Clavier standing out.

    If you are interested in the story of Napoleon or European history in general, this show is certainly worth seeing. Recommended despite some shortcomings.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is disappointing.

    The feature is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is NOT the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is fairly obvious during the show that it has been pan & scanned, especially considering that the credits are 1.78:1. This is very disappointing as a production of this quality, scope and grandeur loses some of that when sections of background are removed, especially I would guess during the battle scenes. Based on our site policy I will remove one star from the overall rating due to this aspect ratio issue.

    Clarity and sharpness were variable with close-ups showing excellent detail in faces but some scenes being fairly soft. Shadow detail was fine but nothing special. The clarity was affected by some quite obvious grain, especially bad in episode 2.

    The colour was quite good, however there was some mild chroma noise from time to time.

    Artefacts were also quite prevalent especially aliasing which was regular and sometimes quite bad. Candidates for aliasing included the usual suspects such as Venetians and roofs but also included belts, windows and floors. Other things which showed up included moire on a roof and a vertical opaque bar at 40:20 in episode 3.

    There are no subtitles which considering some of the accents involved was disappointing..

    The layer changes occur between episodes.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is fine.

    This DVD contains an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s.

    Dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync. Sometimes, accents made some dialogue difficult to understand.

    The score of this film by Richard Gregoire is excellent, composed of lush classical instrumental and choral works. They fit the program very well and are one of the highlights of the production..

    The surround speakers added some mild atmosphere, especially music, when played with Dolby ProLogic II.

    The subwoofer was not used noticeably.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menus are very simple allowing for access to episodes and scenes.

Disc 2

Biographies, Filmographies, Trivia & Quotes

    The above features are included for three of the actors (but not the star). The actors covered are Gerard Depardieu, John Malkovich and Isabella Rossellini. They are text based and in very small print. On the plus side, the information included is quite interesting.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This series has recently been released in Region 1 and 2 as a three disc set. The differences are as follows:

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 & 2 versions of this disc misses out on;

    Either of the other versions are superior, although all seem to be pan and scan.


    An interesting and lavish mini-series about the life of Napoleon let down by the lack of a clear narrative in some parts.

    The video quality is disappointing.

    The audio quality is fine.

    The set has only a small selection of text based extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
subtitles, but... - penguin (there is no bio)