The Edith Piaf song ‘Ça ira’ is the song playing during the opening scenes of the new Ridley Scott film Napoleon, as a young Napoleon is in the crowd watching Marie Antoinette be executed at the guillotine.
The song could not have been a better choice for both the opening scenes of Napoleon, and for the events in the film taking place during the French Revolution, as ‘Ça ira’ was a popular song during that period, eventually being used as an anthem by French revolutionaries.
The song itself has alternately been glorified, banned, and then eventually recorded by several modern French singers, including Edith Piaf.
Edith Piaf’s version of ‘Ça ira’
Piaf’s recording of the French revolutionary song, the title of which in English means ‘It’ll be fine’, came out in 1954 on the soundtrack of the French-Italian movie Si Versailles m’était conté (in English If Versailles Told Its Story).
Piaf sang the song in the film as she plays the character Woman of the People, and is hoisted to the top of the gates of Versailles where she stands singing the song opposing the aristocracy inside. (Video of that short scene here)
Although the French singer had recorded the song before 1954, this one is the version she is the most known for singing.
Although the ‘Ça ira’ lyrics have been changed many times during its more than 230-plus year history, the song’s original lyrics include verses like this that show the common man’s attitude to the aristocracy:
Ah ! It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine
When the aristocrat shall protest,
The good citizen will laugh in his face,
Without troubling his soul,
And will always be the stronger.
It is also the type of song we could probably use more of today, when you consider most of our own corrupt governments, eh?
Listen to Edith Piaf’s ‘Ça ira’ from the opening scenes of Napoleon in the video, and via the 1987 album Eternelle Edith Piaf on Spotify.
Napoleon stars Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby, and was released in the United States and the UK on Wednesday, November 22nd.
The film is getting decent reviews, except from the French, who are more than a bit outraged about its many historical inaccuracies. Probably rightfully so.
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