In the TV series "La camera explore Le Temps",the Calas affair was the audience 's favorite.
A tale of intolerance and religious fanaticism,it's still (unfortunately) relevant today.
Among the great writers of the Age of Enlightenment,Voltaire was the only one who really fought for his compatriots ,when liberty,equality and fraternity were still words.
Voltaire was famous for his mordant irony ,and he was also a canny pretender:the first pictures show an almost dying aging man,who does not seem to car about what he is listening.Someone tells him about an innocent man's inhuman death :the prologue shows us the terrifying torture on the Wheel,two hours of awful suffering ,for something he had never done.
Then the movie uses flashbacks -which were rare in these historical series - sometimes these testimonies contradict each other.
Mr Calas had a B.A. in law ,but being a protestant (Calvinist) in 1763,did not allow him to become a lawyer,unless he abjured ;his elder son opted for catholicism but his brother ,once tempted ,decided he would remain a protestant.
The Young man dies ;the cause for his death remains obscure :most likely he hung himself ,but some historians disagree and claim he was murdered for his purse.
One thing for sure,the father was totally innocent:not only he had to cope with the loss of a child,but he had to face the infamy of an unfair trial and to die in a way even the worst executioners of today would not think of.
The movie is not one-sided:a catholic priest tries to defend the prisoner;but what can he do in a town (Toulouse) where hatred for the "Huguenots" knows no bounds and where the populace used them as scapegoats .The Capitoul (=mayor and also judge) is probably overtaken by events and must sentence the accused to death ,even without a decisive evidence .
Little by little,as he is told about the story ,Voltaire "awoke " from his "sleep" and he decided to react to those intolerable facts:he wrote letters,abetted by some of his compatriots who would have kept their mouth shut without his intervention.Such was the man,who restored Mr Calas' good name,had the rest of his family released ,and was ready to resume his fight with other affairs ,the Chevalier De La Barre's being the most memorable.
The movie shows us scary catholic fanatics ,often passed over in silence in history books, the White Pénitents,whose look predates that of (brr!) the Ku Klux Klan.
Not to be missed by history buffs and tolerant people .
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