Episode 1 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Le Bazar de la Charité (or The Bonfire Of Destiny as it appears to have renamed as) is an 8 episode French Netflix series that backdrops a historical tragedy with soap opera romance and familial drama. For the most part, the show does well to keep this a consistent plot point but plays out a little too heavily on the melodramatic spectrum, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Armed with some slick cinematography and high-end production value, this series certainly has an engaging story but those looking for an accurate and gritty recreation of the event itself may be left disappointed.
Set in Paris during 1897, Le Bazar de la Charite follows the events during and after the annual Bazar de la Charite. When a fire engulfed the building and killed 120 inside, what followed was an angry wave that descended across the streets of Paris demanding the authorities find someone to blame. The real story is a fascinating and tragic tale but as I said before, those looking for a realistic reenactment of these events should probably steer clear. While the first episode does tackle the fire itself, the second episode briefly looks at the horrific scenes in the hospitals before running three separate plot lines parallel to one another, as we follow our trio of characters away from the aftermath of the fire.
One of the characters, Rose, finds herself badly burned in the fire and is forced to assume the identity of Odette, one of the richest women in Paris who died in the fire. A big twist in her tale around the midway point throws a serious spanner in the works too. Meanwhile, Adrienne finds herself desperately searching for her daughter whom her controlling husband Marc-Antoine looks after in the aftermath of the fire. Believing her to be dead, Adrienne sets out to try and get her daughter back without her husband suspecting she’s still alive. The third character, Alice, finds herself confronted with hard truths surrounding her partner and finds her heart straying to Victor, a man who helps her in the first episode. In a cruel sense of irony, Victor winds up as the man accused of being the arsonist.
All of this converges at the end for a dramatic finale that rounds things out nicely but along the way the show does everything it can to keep things as dramatic as possible, sometimes to the detriment of the show itself. In its most basic form, this is a polished period soap opera first and foremost, with a lot of character melodrama and familial issues at the heart of this. The costume and production design are excellent though and most of the cast and crew do an excellent job delivering their dialogue with flair and enthusiasm. Rose in particular is great in her role, torn between what’s right and dealing with her own disfigurement in a believable manner.
Aesthetically, Le Bazar de la Charité uses a lot of interesting shots throughout its run-time too, peppered in with a smattering of fade edits for good measure. I mentioned within a few of the episode recaps that there’s some stylish camera work and that continues pretty much right the way through the show. Whether it be a camera spinning around a piano as Adrienne and Marc-Antoine play or a dolly movement in the midst of the raging fire early on, every shot is deliberate and does well to show off the technicality on display here. There’s also a fair few repeated shots of a guillotine throughout too, cleverly foreshadowing what’s to come late on.
Overall, Le Bazar de la Charité is a soapy, melodramatic series that interweaves elements of the Bazar fire tragedy in 1897 with a trio of female-led storylines that works reasonably well together. Although there are times where the show falls a little too deeply into its soap-opera story, losing sight of its opening fiery drama, the show manages to remain an engaging and enjoyable watch from start to finish thanks to its trio of gripping storylines. The self-contained story helps too, given the definitive ending we receive, and the show does a good job ending each episode on a light cliffhanger to keep you coming back for more.
It’s not perfect but if you can take to the overly dramatic and soapy story, Le Bazar de la Charité certainly has an addictive, moreish feel to it, making for a pretty good binge.