I love a good period drama; from Downton Abbey with its 20th-century look at the changing world around one Earl’s family in the north of England, to Outlander and the exploration of Scotland during the Jacobite Rebellion. It might be because I study history, but there is just something about them, particularly those time periods or events that I am unfamiliar with, that draws my attention.
Le Bazar de la Charité (called The Bonfire of Destiny in English) follows three women (Adrienne, Rose and Alice) in the aftermath of a fire at the titular charity fundraiser which caused the deaths of over 100 people. Taking place in 1897, this series is based on a real historical event with a few dramatic elements and subplots added for the show. Of course, there are some moments during which I found myself glancing away, or skipping entirely; the prosthetics and makeup which are used to create the appearance of burns and the aftermath of the event are realistic and foreground just how tragic the fire really was.
The costuming is exquisite, with such great attention to detail in patterns and jewellery, helping character developments (particularly Adrienne’s) to be shown this way. Adrienne’s opening dress is black and white stripes, more inline with a prison attire and more out of tune with the more muted tones of the outfits of other characters. It’s these small details which make the show interesting to watch and even the most insignificant action or line potentially important later on. Think the opening scene with Adrienne and her daughter Camille searching for their pet is insignificant? The line that Rose’s father installed the cinema projector? Or the steamliner model that Alice bought at the fundraiser?
People might be put off by the fact that the original production was in French, but with English subtitles on I found no issues paying attention or keeping up with what was going on; eventually, I almost forgot I was listening to French. Each character is well-rounded and their motives believable; I didn’t doubt for a second that any of the three leads could undertake the actions they did. Love, forgiveness and sacrifice are all powerful motivators and they are at full display here. You cheer them on, mourn their losses, and learn about a tragic historical event we were never taught about in school.
All episodes of Le Bazar de la Charité are available to watch on Netflix. You can watch the trailer below.