Versailles: A carnal carnival of 17th century French decadence

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Versailles: A carnal carnival of 17th century French decadence

June 01, 2016 - 16:28
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10 reader reviews
Average: 1.8 (4 votes)
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They haven’t even finished building the joint yet. But as Louis XIV plans the most extravagant palace the world has ever seen, it’s already all happening at Versailles.


They haven’t even finished building the joint yet. But as Louis XIV plans the most extravagant palace the world has ever seen, it’s already all happening at Versailles.

A carnal carnival of 17th century French decadence, BBC2’s lavish new drama is packed with explicit sex and graphic violence. What’s not to like?

The Sun King is married to his pregnant Spanish queen, but is busy bonking his sister-in-law. Their illicit liaisons are filmed in loving close up.

Luckily, the philandering monarch’s blatant adultery isn’t too devastating for his brother… because he’s gay. We know this because there he is with his head buried in his boyfriend’s erogenous zone pleasuring him for all he’s worth.

Meanwhile, His Majesty’s ruthless enforcer Fabien Marchal marches through a Paris brothel full of writhing topless prostitutes in search of a tax collector who has been short-changing the crown. Interrupting the corrupt official’s paid-for passion, Marchal pulls him out of bed and chops his hand off. The ecstasy and the agony. Blood all over the place.

Torture, flagellation and depravity. All human excess is here. Plus a black dwarf who loves to climb under the lonely Queen’s dress. It looks like innocent saucy fun. Until shocking developments paint a rather different picture.

Along the way, there’s the story of the child-king who came of age and became a great ruler. As he constructs his sumptuous citadel, Louis faces constant threats on his life and plots to overthrow him. The political intrigue at his backstabbing court is intense.

The costumes are stunning and the production values are sky high. It looks great. But despite all the graphic action, I’m not convinced it’s particularly compelling. And is it just me? Or is some of the acting a little suspect?


There are 10 Comments

PhilipStar's picture

I review it later through, On after Springwatch at 21:30 isn't it? That has me thinking how useful the iPlayer really is. There is also something intresting on BBC Four tonight but that will have to wait.

Kevin O'Sullivan's picture

by teapot

Versailles how utterly ridiculous! I was thinking period drama,sumptious costumes, love story...However what I got was a hideous unnecessarily violent porn film.

This programme will not appeal to middle aged, elderly or youngsters as it offends eveyone older and youngsters wont like the historical aspect. Poldark  it is not!!!....

Isobel Eden's picture

Oh la la! This is my sort of drama, full of sex, kinky relationships, plenty of frills and thrills. I was gripped by the plot, which is refreshingly simple to follow, and the shocker at the end of episode one left me hungry for more.

PhilipStar's picture

I don't mind the odd bit of sex but this programme felt like a internet porn site. Internet porn is no way a TV programme BBC.

The acting on this was very poor too, It leave the programme to look like a comedy show because the viewers ended up laughing at how bad it was.

In all serious it even makes Love Island look like a great programme and I don't watch thaf type of TV.

Peaky Blinders is so much better and viewers should watch that instead.

Anna May's picture

Having watched the first episode, I’m at a loss to know what the HELL!! Because that’s exactly how I felt all the way through.

For a start, why all the ten second sex scenes? If they’re to pad out the story, they’re not doing their job very well. I think it’s safe to say we all know there were boobs back in the day of Louis XIV, but thanks for confirming that for us…over and over and over and over again.

Secondly, why was everyone just standing about muttering to each other? I didn’t feel a connection between any of these characters and I really couldn’t tell many of them apart. They sounded the same, looked the same and I was rarely sure who I was looking at until someone mentioned their name. Surely there are ways of setting one long-haired Frenchman apart from another.

I like historical dramas, but the first episode of Versailles makes me wonder if this is for me. I don’t mind raunchy scenes on TV. If I’m honest, they’re the closest I get to having a sex life of my own most days (any day), but these were just token blasts of smut with no real meaning to the story. Yes, the King was a randy bastard. We get that now. We do. I mean…we really, really do!

For those who love seeing boobs bouncing up and down on TV, fill your boots...and a multipack of Kleenex, but as a hard-hitting depiction of historical events, it falls a bit flat for me. However, there’s another series on the way, so a ready and willing audience is out there somewhere.

Also, what was with that huge new-born robot baby? Nothing about it looked remotely real. Remote control…yes. Who thought painting a massive doll one single colour and making it look wet would be a good idea? No.

miss marple's picture

Too much mutterings, agree with Anna May's review re their hair, but i did not watch the whole episode and will not be viewing this again.

Henrietta Knight's picture

The first episode of Versailles was rather dull and plodding with acting as wooden as the dense forest that sounds the royal chateau.

Mon Dieu! The drama in court of the Sun King cranks up a gear in episode two. The narrative pace, the intrigue, the plot, even the performances are superior. But if you have voyeuristic tendencies you will be sorely disappointed. We saw a bit of bedroom action between Louis X1V (George Blagden) and his sister-in-law, but the Palace of Lust didn't deliver the goods.

"Well someone's got to fuck her," Louis snaps at his brother Phillipe (Alexander Vlahos). He is romantically involved with Chevalier de Lorraine (Evan Williams) who struts around shirtless waving his sword. That's all the sex over for the part two. Hardly the Age of Enlightenment.

On the violence front: a serving wench is hung for gossiping, the Queen's black baby is nearly drowned in a barrel and someone has his eye gouged out. Not much blood and gore if that's your bag.

The infant's empty coffin is buried at a small ceremony, not attended by the King or Queen, but where most of the congregation talk about shagging each other. The baby is then secretly handed over to a surprised nun in a convent.

After a sumptuous dinner, the King gives each member of the court a priceless jewel and makes a stirring speech about his orange blossom trees. I began to wonder if he actually had a warm heart hiding under his frilly shirt. He turns on his buckled shoes and deprives Moncour of his house and land and banishes him for telling secrets to the dastardly Spaniards. When his courtiers seem shocked at his harsh punishment, Louis demonstrates his ultimate power with the immortal line: "I am the state".

While the aristocratic women are stunners and have beautiful costumes, the men are not as dashing as they could be. They look like 1970s rockers from Spinal Tap which blends in well with French electropop soundtrack. It could be that that's the idea behind the actors' casting ... to portray the men of the 17th century as insipid and slightly creepy.

The King goes for a stroll around the garden to discuss his favourite topic of trees with his gardener Bontempts (Stuart Bowman), who has a Scottish accent. He asks him about his son and so he collapses on the ground, as though he suddenly remembered that he died a couple of days before.

During the fashion show, Louis' brother Phillipe wonders why everyone is looking at him. Could be that he was wearing a dress and a wig? Played by Alexander Vlahos, from BBC's Merlin, he is the real star of the series and portrays the less evil sibling with a certain je ne sais quoi.

The climax of the episode sees lots of frolicking in a fountain and the black dwarf lying face down in the water.

Nige Smith's picture

It's a glorious period shagaphon with added violence and style. Peaky Blinders were obviously taking note of some scenes. Think of that glorious Russian princess in all her Russian glory.

Surely worth two revolutions these two dramas. A more indepth Peaky review to follow.

Nige Smith's picture

Hey I liked Poldark and so did my wife for some strange reason!