This big budget met mixed critical reception when it was released ;today it's almost forgotten and it is really a pity:it's the kind of "historical" movie we are so much in need today.
Although would be realistic, "Justinien" is pure melodrama ,its ending leaving no doubt about it;it's got something of the swashbucklers of the late fifties /early sixties ,with Jean Marais,directed by André Hunebelle ;the aristocrats ,the high and the mighty are filmed a la Fellini.Justinien is also a close relative of such fiction characters as Jacquou Le Croquant or the two orphans ("orphans in the storm")or even real ones such as Kaspar Hauser or Victor the wild child .
"Justinien" takes place at the end of the reign of the Sun King ,and it depicts a hard time for the illegitimate (check the title): the convent where the monks are ruthless or the dungeon crawling with rats will make your hair stand on end (the best performance comes from Ticky Hodalgo as a smart jailer).And so will the atrocious torture of the wheel.Justinien becomes a reluctant hangman and ,on that occasion,the writers tell us about the situation of the executioner ,an outcast with privileges
It is an overlong sprawling work ,but in the French nineties,it is hard to find an equivalent .An eventful ,picaresque ,often cruel tale ,in which some kind of Voltaire's Candide makes his way through the eighteenth century.
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