I asked Stefani Robinson about Knight during an interview for his work on Atlanta. She was extremely excited. As she told me the story, my first thought was, “I hope this gives Black Amedee.“So you can imagine my delight when the opening scene of Robinson’s new film, Knightwas a match between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the favorite of the royal court Joseph Bologna, who became Knight of Saint George.
The son of a wealthy (and popular) French landowner and a Caribbean slave, Bologna was sent to a luxury conservatory in France. There he honed his already formidable musical talents with François-Joseph Gossec and trained to be a “man-at-arms” for the king. Bologna was a gifted fencer and befriended King Louis and the infamous Queen Marie Antoinette.
Robinson became interested in the Knight when, as a child, his mother gave him a book about the forgotten character. For this life to be so eventful and impactful on the history of France, Robinson was shocked to have never heard of him. She started writing a screenplay, and it held a special place in her heart until she could come up with it.
It’s a story that’s mostly triumphant, yet confusing. Robinson is quick not to claim this as a biopic as many events have been approximated. There just wasn’t a lot of information and, of course, the cause was one that most of us are familiar with: racism.
Two years after the death of Bologna, Napoleon Bonaparte reestablished slavery in the islands of France. This led to the destruction of Bologna’s character and much of his music. It had to do with the fact that he was the descendant of slaves and the role he played in the French Revolution.
This brings us to a film that seeks to represent different stages of his eclectic life. It must have been hard to choose, and Robinson did a good job – even if I had to describe what the movie was on, I may be in a bit of a hurry. Is this an underdog story? Is it a love story? Is it about staying true to your authentic self or honoring the traditions of your ancestors? The film is full of themes that can make it overwhelming. While there was levity in the script at times, it lacked the fun factor to balance out some of the melodrama.
I mentioned Amedee, whose tension was based on competition and the subject’s cunning personality. In this, Chevalier is reserved, if not arrogant. He is cocky but only shows up when dueling or playing music. He is not so much a cad or a womanizer, but simply a member of the French court for whom these extravagances are readily available. The opening scene is the most dynamic and one of the few to show the contours of Bologna’s personality. I just felt that there was a lack of relaxation in the story.
That said, it was still engaging. Each scene had its relevance and was important to move the film forward. The thoughtful script, Stephen Williams’ direction, and the gorgeous cast make this a movie worth watching.