A quirky Netflix doco on Napoleonic reenacting

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On the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, thousands of enthusiasts reenact the epic clash. But there can only be one Napoleon.

I’ve just finished watching a quirky documentary on Netflix. Being Napoleon is a feature length documentary that follows the stories of several historical war reenactors as they prepare for Waterloo 2015.

Over 6,000 reenactors gather for the 200th anniversary of the epic Battle of Waterloo, from humble foot-soldiers through to officers and even the great Marshal Ney (who is unfortunately less adept at horsemanship than the original).

But the real battle is taking place elsewhere, as two contenders vie for the vital role of being Napoleon. Frenchman Frank Samson, uniform-maker extraordinaire, takes on American Mark Schneider as to who will be Emperor on the day. By the way, my son and I saw the latter in action ten years earlier when we took part in the 2005 Waterloo!

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There was only one Napoleon in 1815, so there can be only one Napoleon in 2015. But the Belgians are in charge, and unrest is growing in the ranks.

There’s also an outstanding prison sentence to be served, an unpaid bill for parking to which Empress Josephine has something to say, and a motley group of elderly Grenadier reenactors gamely trekking Napoleon’s route from where he landed after his escape from Elba in 1815.

The movie concludes with some amazing footage of the Waterloo event, especially the last stand of the Guard.

As to which of the two contenders ends up being Napoleon, you’ll just have to watch.

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One thought on “A quirky Netflix doco on Napoleonic reenacting

  1. I will have to look out for this movie, looks intriguing! Must admit, ‘there can be only one’ pretty much sums up the attitude of some academics when writing military history. I ran into one of them in the Turnbull a few weeks back, and he can still barely control his anger when he sees me – my temerity for daring to write in the field where he was employed full time at public expense was, apparently, a war crime for which he felt he had to act as judge, jury and then attempted executioner via repeated and abusive public worth denial attacks on my professional competence. Did he have the guts to actually approach me for a chat? Of course not. Sigh… and I wasn’t even covering the Napoleonic Wars…. 🙂

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