Nostradamus Review

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Set against the backdrop of a plague ridden 16th century France this film recounts the life and loves of the physician, astrologer, and famed prognosticator; his encounters with medieval science and the Inquisition; and his early struggles with his visions of the future.


In 16th Century France, Michel de Nostre Dame (Karyo) has no end of personal and political problems: his family are Jewish converts liable to burn at the stake as heretics; he is a devout practitioner of alternative medicine; his first wife (Julia Ormond) is suicidally jealous because his mysterious scientific mentor (Abraham) won't let her see the books of lore.

And it doesn't stop there: the plague periodically kills off friends and family, the Holy Inquisition has a special pile of hot coals just for his bottom; and his horny sister-in-law wants to break up his second marriage. Just to put the cherry on top, he's also afflicted with prophetic visions of terrible things to come: world wars, famine, the atomic bomb, assassination, the Osmond Brothers.

A biopic of the seer whose prophecies still shift enormous quantities of cheap paperbacks, this doesn't quite manage to avoid being a costumed melodrama. As much as Karyo is bearded and intense in the lead, racked by pain during flash-forwards to Hiroshima or the fall of France, the rest of the large cast, who count among their number Rutger Hauer and Amanda Plummer, mainly go for sly camp.

The visions themselves are visually impressive: a dark city with eerily modern and mediaeval architectural features is devastated in an earthquake; Karyo wandering into the black rain of an atomic aftermath; a World War II shoot-up.

By the end, however, it's difficult to take Nostradamus the man as much more than David Icke on a lucky streak, but as a movie this balances amusingly hokey scenes with powerful time-tripping horrors to mildly entertaining effect.