Watch the Newly-Released Trailer for Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, Starring Joaquin Phoenix

Rid­ley Scot­t’s 1977 film The Duel­lists stars Har­vey Kei­t­el and Kei­th Car­ra­dine as French­men in the ear­ly nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. Both of their char­ac­ters are mil­i­tary offi­cers, Keit­el’s a Bona­partist and Car­radine’s an anti-Bona­partist, and their rela­tion­ship plays out over a duel-punc­tu­at­ed six­teen-year peri­od dur­ing and just after the Napoleon­ic Wars. The Duel­lists is required view­ing for any stu­dent of Scott-as-auteur, not just due to its being his debut fea­ture, but also to its pre­sump­tive con­nec­tions to his lat­est work. Even work­ing on a low bud­get 45 years ago, Scott and his col­lab­o­ra­tors man­aged to per­form an acclaimed re-cre­ation of Napoleon’s France. What has he accom­plished on the far grander can­vas of Napoleon, which comes out on Novem­ber 22nd?

Napoleon, as pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, is also the title of the great­est movie Stan­ley Kubrick nev­er made. Judg­ing by its new­ly released trail­er, Rid­ley Scot­t’s film isn’t exact­ly a styl­is­tic homage to Kubrick, though one doubts that Kubrick­’s work was all too far from Scot­t’s mind dur­ing the project — as indeed it was­n’t in the mak­ing of The Duel­lists, which was heav­i­ly influ­enced by Bar­ry Lyn­don.

But as a his­tor­i­cal dra­ma, Napoleon seems to have more obvi­ous­ly in com­mon with Scot­t’s own swords-and-san­dals block­buster Glad­i­a­tor, which includ­ed a mem­o­rable per­for­mance by Joaquin Phoenix as Mar­cus Aure­lius’ pow­er-mad son Com­modus, who kills his father in order to make him­self emper­or.

Phoenix plays anoth­er impe­r­i­al role in Napoleon: that of the tit­u­lar mil­i­tary com­man­der who rose to rule the French Empire for more than a decade. Bring­ing Napoleon’s sto­ry to the screen afford­ed Scott the chance to stage no few­er than six bat­tle sequences — includ­ing, as’s Tere­sa Nowakows­ki notes, “the Bat­tle of Auster­litz, a mil­i­tary engage­ment that went down in his­to­ry as one of Napoleon’s great­est suc­cess­es. The trail­er depicts the piv­otal moment when Napoleon’s forces fired artillery into the ice on which ene­my troops were retreat­ing,” an episode well-suit­ed to Scot­t’s instinct for spec­ta­cle. How­ev­er much his par­tic­u­lar sen­si­bil­i­ties may dif­fer from Kubrick­’s, it’s easy to under­stand why both direc­tors would be drawn to the sub­ject of Napoleon­ic ambi­tion.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Napoleon: The Great­est Movie Stan­ley Kubrick Nev­er Made

Napoleon’s Eng­lish Lessons: How the Mil­i­tary Leader Stud­ied Eng­lish to Escape the Bore­dom of Life in Exile

Napoleon’s Dis­as­trous Inva­sion of Rus­sia Detailed in an 1869 Data Visu­al­iza­tion: It’s Been Called “the Best Sta­tis­ti­cal Graph­ic Ever Drawn”

The Col­or That May Have Killed Napoleon: Scheele’s Green

Philoso­pher Bertrand Rus­sell Talks About the Time When His Grand­fa­ther Met Napoleon

Why Is Napoleon’s Hand Always in His Waist­coat?: The Ori­gins of This Dis­tinc­tive Pose Explained

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.