Film: Les Visiteurs


Les Visiteurs (The Visitors) is a classic French Fish Out of Temporal Water comedy film released in 1993, starring Jean Reno, Christian Clavier and Valérie Lemercier.

In the year 1123, Godefroy (a proud French knight) saves the life of his king and is rewarded with the title of Count of Montmirail and is given leave to marry his betrothed. On his way home, he finds and captures a witch, taking her prisoner to be judged and burnt alive. She slips a poison into his drink, causing him to hallucinate, and when he returns to see his betrothed running towards him pursued by her father, he thinks she's being chased by a bear, shooting him dead with his crossbow. The wedding obviously called off (and his servant Jacquouille stealing and hiding jewels from the corpse), Godefroy consults his father's magician to travel back in time to prevent the accidental killing. Unfortunately, the mage screws up, sending Godefroy and Jacquouille several hundred years into the future.

Once the two wake up, their medieval outlook on life quickly get into trouble and are caught by the police, released into the custody of Beatrice, the Countess of Montmirail and Godefroy's descendant, who mistakes Godefroy for a long-lost cousin who looks exactly like him. The two return to the castle, which has been modified in the 18th century and turned into a luxury hotel by Jacquard, Jacquouille's own descendant. Godefroy searches the castle for clues the mage might have left in the dungeons, while Jacquouille goes to the chapel to retrieve the stolen jewelry. Godefroy obtains the recipe for returning to his own time, but Jacquouille refuses, having found himself a girlfriend. Godefroy brings him back by force, but Jacquouille tricks Jacquard into drinking the potion.

The movie ends with Godefroy successfully fighting off the witch's potion and shooting her with his crossbow, saving his marriage to be, Jacquouille living a happy life with his girlfriend in the 1990's, and the unfortunate Jacquard stranded in the past.

There is a sequel (The Visitors II: The Corridors of Time) in which Jacquard and Jacquouille are returned to their rightful times just to find out that Jacquouille created a temporal paradox by stealing Beatrice's father's jewels, and an American remake, Just Visiting (Les Visiteurs en Amérique).

As of May 2013, Christian Clavier is working on a screenplay for a third movie, which will ignore the remake.

Les Visiteurs provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Arrow Cam
  • Bawdy Song:
    Et on lui pelera le jonc comme au bailli du Limousin
    On l'a pendu avec ses tripes!
  • Burn the Witch!
    • Godefroy is returning home when he hears of a witch living on his lands, he and his men then decide to raid her hideout.
    Godefroy: One does not torture women on my lands. Burning her will be enough!
    • Jacquard is sentenced to be burnt for sorcery by an inquisitor in the sequel.
  • Butt Monkey: Poor Jacquard. His hotel is invaded by smelly uncivilized men from Middle Ages while he's trying to impress important foreign guests, his car gets destroyed, he gets sent to a time period full of aforementioned smelly uncivilized people ... Things go From Bad to Worse in the sequel, as he is almost burnt alive and gets tortured by an inquistor who forces him to drink huge quantities of water, which makes him piss endlessly afterwards. And he caught scabies.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass
    • Godefroy inverts it for most of the film, only to finally get his stuff together at the end for a major Moment of Awesome.
    • Jacqouille during the Burgundian raid on Godefroy's fief in the sequel.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Godefroy is surrounded by a French riot squad and while giving a valiant defence, his sword and shield are no match for their modern shields and batons. Eventually he is tackled and given Valium to be subdued.
  • Dance Line: In the American remake, there's a scene towards the end of the film which ushers Hunter being discovered.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Obviously, from the black postal worker being called a Moor/Saracen to Jacquouille's refusing to sit at the table like the high-born folks.
  • The Dung Ages: Our heroes carry the traditional garb of their time (meaning they STINK), and the first thing Beatrice's dentist husband notices is the horrible state of their teeth. Godefroy convinces Jacquouille that his body is rotting when he tells him to breathe on an unsuspecting person, the horrified reaction sends Jacquouille to devour toothpaste.
  • Epic Flail: Godefroy uses a mace to destroy a "devil's cart" (a postal van).
  • Eternal French: Godefroy and Jacquouille have no problems communicating in the 20th century.
  • Eternally Pearly-White Teeth: Averted in the French movies, played straight in the American remake.
  • Fish Out of Temporal Water: The two main characters are scared and confused by modern concepts, such as cars, planes, television, charging into churches bellowing "SANCTUARY!" no longer being an appropriate response to the law... And reversed when two of the modern characters are sent back in time.
  • Foreign Remake: The Visitors IN AMERICA!
  • Fountain of Youth: The witch Godefroy captured in the beginning of the movie gave an old woman one of her potions, causing her to transform into a younger (but just as ugly) woman.
  • Golf Clubbing: Jean-Pierre uses his golf club this way in the sequel.
  • Groin Attack: Godefroy grabs a doctor by the groin and pins him against the wall.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Among other examples, baiser used to mean "kiss", while in modern French it means, well, "fuck". Also, to mean the act of washing Godefroy uses the word lavement, which means "enema".
    • One gag stems from the double meaning of "maîtresse", a transparent cognate of "mistress", both in its somewhat antiquated meaning of "female master" and that of "extra-marital lover". Jacquouille describes Béatrice, who he mistakes for Dame Frénégonde, as his "mistress" to "Dame" Ginette. The latter reacts by calling her a stuck-up "poufiasse" (insult vaguely similar in register to "bitch" or "slag"). Unaware of the word's meaning, Jacquouille takes it for a honorific and proceeds to actually call Godefroy's descendant, "Dame Béatrice la Pouffiasse".
  • Historical-Domain Character: King Louis VI of France (also known as Louis VI the Fat).
  • Identical Grandson: Played by the same actors, obviously.
    • Godefroy's descendant Beatrice is the spitting image of his betrothed Frénégonde.
    • Jacquouille and Jacquard's uncanny resemblance is commented on (everyone thinks Jacquouille is Jacquard's incredibly embarrassing and socially ignorant brother, no matter how much Jacquard denies it).
    • Godefroy is at first thought to be the family's long-lost cousin Hubert, presumably dead in a race car driver in Borneo.
    • Also the wizard and his descendant.
  • Idiot Ball: The magician forgot one main ingredient (quail eggs) of the potion, sending Godefroy and Jacquouille to the 20th century instead of sending them a few days back in time.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: According to Jacquouille, the magic potion "tastes like pig dung". One can only wonders how does he know what pig dung tastes like, but Jacquouille being Jacquouille...
  • Jabba Table Manners: Frénégonde's father.
    "Father, you promised you wouldn't burp at dinner!"
  • Lingerie Scene
  • Medieval Morons: Godefroy and Jacquouille destroy a postal van, believing it to be sorcerous. In another scene, they drink from the toilet, not understanding how faucets work, and bathe fully clothed.
    • Jacquouille is this all the way. However, he is wood smart.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: When first going to the castle, a large ring on Godfroy's finger begins smoking and shaking, as does its temporally stable version in a display case in the castle. As they get closer, the two rings burst free and fly off towards each other, colliding in midair and setting fire on Jacquard's car.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Godefroy's hallucinations and the Time Travel transformations with major Uncanny Valley component. In-universe, the appearance of the rot-toothed hobo-lookalike heroes sends Beatrice's children screaming.
  • Off with His Head!: The English knight who ambushes the French king and Godefroy at the beginning. The king's sword strike only beheads his armor, because he retracted his head inside the breastplate. He reveals his head, and then Godefroy's strike successfully beheads him. The headless corpse wanders for a few seconds and collapses.
  • Running Gag: The postman.
  • Scary Black Man: The postman scares Jacquouille away believing him to be a Saracen in a devil-cart.
  • Seeking Sanctuary: "ASILE! ASILE!"
  • Shout-Out: Numerous stylistic references to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, right down to the music, which is a blatant pastiche. Lampshaded by Dame Ginette rambling about "that tall good-looking guy who rides horses like Kewin Costère !"
  • Super Strength: Godefroy Neck Lifts a hospital orderly with no trouble.
  • Take That: The French riot police are infamous in France for being very brutal (they are employed as lifeguards, viewed by some as serious overkill).
  • Moral Guardian / Sour Prude: Valérie Lemercier as Béatrice portrayed this so well that today, many French people's image of what's left of the nobility note  basically amounts to Dame Béatrice exasperatedly addressing Jacquouille as "Monsieur Ouille". "Couille" is slang for testicle — one sub translated Jacquouille's name as "Jackass" and had Béatrice calling him "Mr. Kaas", which achieves a similar effect.
    • Additionally, for the same reasons, Clavier as Jacquard pretty much embodies the "nouveau riche" archetypenote .
  • Time Travel
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Because we can see Godefroy and Jacquouille's descendants in the present, a Genre Savvy viewer may believe the whole thing is a Stable Time Loop (granted the "timeline replacement" bit near the end of the movie, is only there to motivate Godefroy)... Except there's the whole infamous ring scene, where the two "Bague du Hardi" from the past and the present fuse together. It makes no logical sense and, even granted "A Wizard Did It", Makes Just as Much Sense in Context. Apparently, that an only ring could be present in two samples at a time because of Time Travel was found a logical paradox by the writers, never mind that it only applies to the ring and to nothing else in the film. In short, it's pure Voodoo Shark.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Godefroy is an all-around sword-swinging Badass, but he gets carsick.
  • World of Ham
  • Would Hit a Girl: The English duke, who backhands his treacherous niece while wearing steel gauntlets and shoots her chaperone at point-blank range with a crossbow.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: The dialogues are full of butchered Old French.