[From June Issue 2012]
Berusaiyu no Bara (The Rose of Versailles)
Directed by NAGAHAMA Tadao, Chief Director: DEZAKI Osamu
This movie is based on a girls’ comic of the same title by IKEDA Riyoko. Since it was first serialized in a girls’ manga magazine in 1972, it has been affectionately nicknamed “Beru Bara.” A portrayal of Marie ANTOINETTE (executed during the French revolution) in an Australian novel was the inspiration for this comic, which charts the dramatic life of the fictional character, Oscar.
The comic’s popularity is such that it has been adapted into musicals by the Takarazuka Revue Company, into an animated TV series, an animated film, and a live-action movie. Overseas there are quite a few fans of the comic who became familiar with the work through translations of the original. The animated TV series, which first broadcast in 1979 and ran for one year, was also favorably received in France and Italy.
The story is set in France in the 1770s. A sixth child is born to aristocrat, General Jarjayes. However, the general is disappointed when he discovers that the child is a girl. He longs for a son to succeed him and doesn’t need a sixth daughter. The general names the child Oscar and declares that he will raise her as a man.
In the spring, 20 years before the outbreak of the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette arrives in France from Austria – a country allied with France – and is welcomed as the dauphine of Louis XVI. Fourteen-year-old Oscar is appointed as the commander of the Royal Guard responsible for the dauphine. Oscar swears loyalty to the future queen.
Before long, Louis XVI is crowned king, and Antoinette, at the age of 18, becomes queen. Oscar understands the loneliness of Antoinette who is far from home and hasn’t gotten used to life in the Palace of Versailles. Although Oscar advises her to become a better queen, Antoinette gradually begins to indulge in extravagant pleasures and falls in love with Swedish aristocrat Fersen.
Meanwhile, Oscar witnesses the deprived conditions of the populace and begins to have doubts about her political allegiances. Unable to endure the unreasonable oppression any longer, people start to riot all over the place. Amid the turmoil, Oscar learns that her childhood friend Andre is deeply in love with her, and she decides to rebel against the government herself. Thus, the country enters into the era of the French Revolution.
The story features some fictitious characters like Oscar, but it also depicts historical figures that actually existed, like General Jarjayes and Marie Antoinette, lending a touch of realism to the tale. Oscar is killed at war later on in the series and there’s an anecdote amongst fans about an actual funeral that was held in her honor.