‘Notre-Dame’ Review: Taking A Look At The Catastrophe From Varied Points Of View


People all across the globe were left aghast when the Notre-Dame cathedral spire collapsed on the 15th of April, 2019. The Paris fire department had the whole world minutely watching their every action, including Trump, whose tweets remain unforgettable for their bad taste. Saving Notre-Dame was not simply about saving a historically significant structure; it was rather about preserving an emotion for which risks were taken, and as a result, the cathedral continues to stand tall. The cause of the fire remains unknown. It is assumed that the fire was triggered during restoration work. Early this year, “Notre-Dame on Fire” was released on IMAX. And here we are two months before the year’s end and Netflix releases a mini-series “Notre-Dame: La Part Du Feu,” which focuses on the emotions attached to the place and how individuals, related and unrelated, were affected by the Notre-Dame fire. Directed by Herve Hadmar, the mini-series is based on the book “La Nuit De Notre-Dame,” written by the Paris Fire Department and Romain Gubert. While the individuals and the way the relationships were explored were sentimentally rich, the making was rather clunky and overly dramatized.

Fire Chief, General Ducourt was holding on to his resignation letter when he received a call informing him about the Notre-Dame fire. He knew that his brigade needed him for guidance, and he stepped up to perform his duty unequivocally. After recently losing her lover, the Notre-Dame fire was a challenge for Alice. She had to prove herself to her lover, Ben, who lost his life on duty in a fire accident, and to herself. She had to overcome her fears and leave the comfort of her memories to save the cathedral. While Alice faced the fire to prove her worth, Elena was pushed into the catastrophic situation for viewership. Elena had come to Paris to become a journalist, and for that, she was ready to take up any challenge. When her boss demanded unseen footage of the Notre-Dame fire, she found a way to enter the cathedral. Somehow, her experience inside the building changed her as a person. Colonel Varese, a firefighter and believer, never gave up on saving Notre-Dame. She believed God had sent her on a mission to protect the Gothic cathedral. For Max, the Notre-Dame fire was the day he endlessly searched for his daughter, Victoire. To reunite his family, Max had to face situations he never thought he would have to. For Victoire, April 15th, 2019, was the day she found a friend in a little boy named Billy. The two walked on the streets of Paris and unexpectedly became inseparable. On the day Notre-Dame burned, Bassem felt closer to his wife than he ever had before. The characters crossed paths; some stories intertwined with others, resulting in an emotional ending to the six-episode mini-series.

The women in “Notre-Dame” are fierce and determined. Alice (Megan Northam) had to move past her personal loss and dedicate herself to her duty. Varese (Caroline Proust) continuously pressurized General Ducourt to take risks. She played a decisive role in saving the cathedral. It was Elena’s (Alice Issaz) sheer determination that helped her secretly enter the cathedral. After leaving the building, she took a decision that took immense courage and strength. Victoire (Marie Zabukovec) was broken, yet she was the only one who held Billy’s hand when he was lost. Billy’s journey to find his father in the fire brigade took an unexpected turn that led to a beautiful ending. “Notre-Dame” is not unique in its storytelling, but it surely is an emotional rollercoaster. The scene in which Victoire stole a jeweled cross from a client the night before Notre-Dame started to burn was impactful. The series strongly advocates the idea of how important it is to preserve a place of belief for mankind. Apart from a few impactful moments, the series mostly falls flat. The trajectory of each story is predictable, apart from Billy’s journey. The story of Baseem and his wife was rushed. The characters lacked depth, and the overall story seemed unnecessary.

The cast, on the whole, delivered a convincing performance. The constant use of non-diegetic sound to amplify emotions felt overwhelming and monotonous toward the end. The series is accurate in its depiction of the event, and it can be watched to understand how the Paris Fire Department tackled the gigantic fire that left a scar in the lives of every Parisian. “Notre-Dame” is not an exceptional piece of work, but at the same time, it is palatable. It is one of the many Netflix series that can be watched while keeping aside expectations of artistic marvel. “Notre-Dame” has multiple fictional elements, but when it comes to how the Paris Fire Department handled the fire, it sticks to the real account. What works for the series is the way it merges facts and emotions. It is undeniable that the Notre-Dame fire is a moment in the recent past that remains etched in the minds of Parisians, if not the world. People remember such incidents in relation to how their lives were at that point in time, and “Notre-Dame” focuses on exactly that. It tries to bring together the personal accounts of several characters whose lives were massively affected, in one way or another, on the day Notre-Dame was burning.

See More: ‘Notre-Dame’ Ending, Explained: How Did The Paris Fire Department Save Notre-Dame? Is It Based On True Events?

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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