January 11, 2017 — It is difficult to think of Casanova as an old man.
The image of the great lover that has come down through history is that of an accomplished and insatiable lover, a talented author, a man who escaped from prison, an alchemist, a man who met with England’s King George III and Catherine the Great of Russia, an intellect, a world traveller.
But the idea of Casanova as an old man, with no money and in ill-health — but with a remarkable life to look back on — is difficult to imagine. It requires a remarkable actor to embody that persona.
The great Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia, The Lion in Winter, The Man of La Mancha) plays the elderly Casanova, now the impoverished librarian at the Castle Dux in Bohemia. He tells the story of his life to Edith, (Rose Byrne, X-Men: Apocalypse, The Boxer and the Bombshell), a young kitchen maid. The man who is world-known for his innumerable affairs informs the young girl that he had only one true love in his life, a woman he lost decades earlier, but whose loss he has never ceased to mourn.
As a young man, Casanova (now played by David Tennant, Dr. Who, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) studied for the priesthood, but was, not surprisingly, expelled from seminary. It is shortly after his expulsion that he meets Henriette (Laura Fraser, Vanilla Sky, Divorcing Jack). But, as the son of actors, Casanova is a man of humble origins. It is not until he does a favor for a powerful man that his fortunes improve and he is able to approach his beloved.
However, a wealthy Duke has also fallen for Henriette. To be rid of the competition, the Duke has Casanova arrested on witchcraft charges.
Casanova escapes from prison, makes his way to Paris accompanied by a servant and his illegitimate son. In Paris he hopes to find a Venetian ambassador willing to grant him a pardon.
Casanova’s life of escapades, turmoil, travel — and, of course, love affairs — continues as he makes his way around the great capitols of Europe. Sometimes rich, often poor, living by his wits, reinventing himself repeatedly, Casanova’s life is a constant whirlwind of activity and excitement.
But the loss of Henriette is his great regret, and it has never ceased to trouble him. Edith, the last female companion of Casanova’s life, realizes that the famous lover is on his deathbed, and hears with compassion the one great sorrow that shadows him as he awaits death.
This gorgeous production, which was shot on location around Europe, shares the attention to lavish period detail for which BBC productions are known.
Casanova is available on Blu-ray and DVD, or you can stream it immediately on Amazon Video.