The Horseman on the Roof (Le Hussard Sur le Toit)
- Duffin, Jacalyn
- Date of entry: Jul-02-2001
It is 1832. Europe is in turmoil of revolution and soon to be ravaged by cholera. Italians who resist the Austrian occupation of their country have fled to southern France where they are ruthlessly pursued and killed by special agents. Handsome, young, Angelo Pardi (Olivier Martinez), is an Italian fugitive whose wealthy but revolutionary-minded mother has purchased his rank of colonel. Upon learning that a friend has betrayed his cell of resistors, he determines to return to Italy carrying the funds raised for a defense.
But cholera has struck southern France. Roads and rivers are barricaded, quarantine is enforced, and he encounters death, decay, fear, and angry crowds who accuse every stranger of having caused the epidemic. Pardi meets an anxious doctor who teaches him a treatment for cholera, but moments later the doctor defies his own treatment to die of the illness caught from his patients.
As Pardi runs from both Austrian and French pursuers, he falls through a tiled roof into the life of the abandoned Pauline de Théus (Juliette Binoche). With almost comic formality, he becomes her chivalrous guide--her "angel(o)"--and leads her safely to her elderly husband through an improbable series of narrow escapes, including cholera itself. The doctor's dubious treatment comes in handy not only for saving her life but also as a pretext for nudity in their chaste relationship. A few years later, peace and health returned, Madame de Théus receives a letter from Italy. Her husband knows that he ought to let her go, but the credits roll as she gazes at the Alps and contemplates her decision.