France / 1995
Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau
Writer: Jean-Claude carrier, Nina Comaneez, adapted from the novel by Jean Giono.
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Gerard Depardieu, Oliver Martinez
Following the internationally successful adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac – for which Gerard Depardieu received an Oscar nomination – the actor and director Jean-Paul Rappeneau team up again for another adaptation of a French literary classic based on Jean Giono’s novel. The film also stars Juliette Binoche in the role before her Oscar-winning performance in The English Patient , which, like the Horseman on the Roof , was made by Miramax.
The film stars Cesar winner Oliver Martinez who plays the Italian revolutionary on the run from Austrian assassins in France. Martinez rides across 19th century, cholera-ridden Provence to warn his comrades, but the disease-ridden natives are not friendly and Martinez runs up on the roof to escape their attacks. At the end he slides into the attic of a seemingly deserted house, only to find it inhabited by the beautiful Marquessa Pauline de Theus (Binoche). Infatuated by the strong and virtuous woman, Martinez is soon drawn into her search for her missing husband, the Marquis de Theus (Depardieu), despite it meaning a delay in his return to Milan with money for the revolution.
While the epic drama includes all the necessary components such as romance, fighting and tragedy, there are two aspects of this film which the critics agreed upon: the beauty of the French countryside and Juliette Binoche. Stephen Holden of the New York Times wrote that, “Binoche… conveys a mercurially eruptive spirit that makes Pauline mysterious and utterly captivating”.