Notre-Dame review – an earnest miniseries too adherent to formula

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Somewhat rigid and flat in execution, Notre-Dame is a serious attempt to mix fact and fiction, but whether it really succeeds or not is up for debate.

This Notre-Dame review is spoiler-free.

Directed by Herve Hadmar and based on the book La Nuit de Notre Damewritten by the Paris fire brigade and Romain Gubertthe new limited series from Netflix Notre-Dame is another example of trying to turn a real-life disaster — in this case, the iconic Parisian Notre-Dame Cathedral that caught fire in April 2019 — into prestige television. It’s an admirable attempt to capture the importance of salvaging not just a landmark but a piece of history and batting it with the crosswinds of human emotion and experience.

Notre-Dame, you see, isn’t just a building – it’s a totem and has meant so much to so many over the years that it was seen to crumble to ashes with it all it represented. Putting it out before the damage became too great was a major undertaking, a coordination of effort and expertise worthy of the structure’s long history. Notre-Damethe show is good at conveying that.

In the lives licked by the flames we see a range of experiences, influences and motivations – a fire chief’s sense of duty, a grieving lover’s personal challenge, a journalist’s ambition tasked with documenting the affair, divine inspiration, the connection of family and the joy of unexpected and unlikely friendships. The event was not just a threat to a national landmark, but in its own way the first thread in a tapestry of human connection deftly woven across six episodes.

In this human connection Notre-Dame finds a lot of emotion. The different perspectives help touch on multiple themes and driving purposes, and the overall effect, especially when the stories start to intertwine, is pleasing. The theme of conservation, obvious as it may be, lands relatively well. But the predictable genre beats and condensed structure mean so many characters and perspectives feel like they’re struggling for equal treatment, leading to a lack of depth and a frustrating adherence to clichés.

Like the last ones floodon too Netflix, Notre-Dame is a factual account with accurate depictions of the processes surrounding a famous real-life situation, but requires a degree of artistic license with its characters and scenarios. Mixing the two is not always successful. I think it works more as an affirmation of the Paris fire brigade than as a drama where, despite game performances, it can sometimes feel paralyzed by its familiarity and predictability. (And no, I don’t mean in terms of the cathedral burning down, but in terms of the outcome of the more personal storylines.)

With all that said, there is something to be said for the sense of meaning Notre-Dame can create; his genuine appreciation for those who helped prevent the cathedral from burning, not to mention his reverence for the cathedral itself and their understanding of what it means to Parisians and the world.

You can stream Notre-Dame exclusively on Netflix.

Additional reading:

  • Notre-Dame end explained.
  • is Notre-Dame Based on a true story? Notre-Dame review – an earnest miniseries too adherent to formula

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