Originally produced as a two part TV movie, Henry of Navarre (aka Henri 4) makes its way onto Blu-ray and DVD in the UK in the form of its international theatrical cut. Clocking in at the reduced running time of just over two and a half hours the film is still rather bloated and the pace begins to drag a little towards the end.

The film predominantly covers the middle period in Henry of Navarre’s life in which he married Margot de Valois, which in turn resulted in the infamous Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, his affair with Gabrielle d’Estrees and his subsequent marriage to Marie de’ Medici. Despite all these romantic entanglements (including one particularly energetic sex scene) the primary focus of the makers of Henry of Navarre appears to be the political machinations and bloody conflicts that are derived from the disagreements between the Catholics and the Protestants (Huguenots).

The bloody conflicts are entertaining in parts with a suspenseful representation of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre which manages to do a lot with very little. The memory of Patrice Chéreau’s La Reine Margot hangs heavy over this sequence though and Isabelle Adjani’s memorable turn as Margot is one that Armele Deutsch does little to contest with here. The battle sequences are also uneven with certain aspects of the action choreography and cinematography working better than others but the positives do generally outweigh the negatives.

The separate focus on the allegiances between characters and the various manipulative moves made results in a number of scenes in which key characters ham it up somewhat and overly expressive camerawork swirls around them in an effort to make rather unengaging plotting and dull dialogue seem dynamic and interesting. It doesn’t really work though and a lot of the histrionics from the actors and cameramen fails to make Henry of Navarre more than just a somewhat entertaining diversion.

The Blu-ray from Showbox is a crisp presentation and the picture quality is top notch but unfortunately the cinematography is not particularly impressive and the deficiencies in the lighting in particular are very noticeable in this HD presentation. The audio track included (French language) is suitably dynamic with dialogue heavy scenes and louder battle sequences resting suitably next to eachother. Extras are a little on the slim side with only trailers and a making of that clocks in at only a few minutes.

Henry of Navarre is available to buy or rent on Blu-ray now.

Film [Rating:2.5/5]
DVD [Rating:3/5]