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Film / The Emperor's New Clothes

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A 2001 British historical romantic comedy film, directed by Alan Taylor and based on Simon Leys' novel The Death of Napoleon, which stars Ian Holm as Napoléon Bonaparte.

The film is based around the premise that Napoleon escaped from his second imprisonment at St. Helena, but that he failed to meet up with the contact man who would have taken him to Paris to start another revolution, that man having died. Thus Napoleon is forced to walk to Paris as a common beggar, falling in with a woman who sells melons on the street. Meanwhile the lowly Private chosen to serve as his body double takes a liking to the life of an emperor, even an exiled one, and refuses to admit that he is not Napoleon. Lacking any way to prove he is who he says he is, the real Napoleon lives a humble life, eventually growing to embrace it and falling in love with the woman who helps him.


As you can see, this should definitely not be confused with the Hans Christian Andersen story.

Has Examples Of:

  • Body Double: Who refuses to admit he's a fake and ends up dying on the same day history records Napoleon as having died.
  • Foregone Conclusion: We know that, historically, Napoleon died in exile without ever escaping. The beginning of the film even underscores this. So we know from the start that the protagonist will never manage to start his new revolution, or even be accepted as the real Napoleon.
  • How Many Fingers?: Napoleon Bonaparte slips and hits his head on the cobblestones. The people with him try to check if he's thinking clearly by asking him how many fingers he can see (and then "What is your name?", which he woozily answers with his real name instead of his current alias).
  • Napoleon Delusion: After he tries to declare his identity, Napoleon is taken to visit a mental institution with an entire ward full of people who also claim to really be Napoleon.
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  • No Mere Windmill: The protagonist is the real Napoleon, but gets mistaken for one of the many lunatics believing themselves to be Napoleon.
  • Prince and Pauper: The emperor and his Body Double switch places for an extended time.
  • Rags to Riches: While Napoleon is trying to rebuild his conspiracy, he also has a civilian life to live.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Poor Emperor.
  • Windmill Political: The entire premise of the plot is that Napoleon and his followers have an incorrect-bordering-on-delusional belief that the people love their former emperor and would gladly rise up to put him back on the throne. Justified in that the first time Napoleon escaped from exile, that's pretty much exactly what did happen.


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