Jefferson in Paris Essay

Category: History

This is a film set in 1975 that describes Jefferson before the French revolution as an ambassador in Versailles. French intellectual and liberals had high hopes in him that he will lead them out of the corrupt court of King Louis XVI and form a more democratized form of government. Although most of the people in Paris are in deplorable condition, Jefferson embraces the value of civilization and the French culture. At this time, he takes advantage of the opportunity to expand his knowledge in liberal arts abroad by absorbing all the refinements that French would offer.

The movie takes place before the 18th century when Benjamin Franklin was replaced by Jefferson, the main author of Declaration of Independence, as the United States representative at the court of Louis XVI. At the time, his wife is already dead and he lives the life of a single man in town carrying on flirtations to different women. Being a lonely widower, Jefferson cultivates a close relationship with a beautiful Maria, who was musician and painter of an Anglo-Italian heritage. Despite being a wife of a famous world class fop, the audience is left wondering whether if she decides to leave her husband, Jefferson will marry her. Maria requests to know his stand on the deathbed promise he had made to his wife and he solemnly respond that the world belong to the living but he doesn’t answer her question.

Despite her increased devotion to him, the memory of his wife prevents him from having a full commitment in her relationship. She had promised her wife and daughters that he will never remarry, though he had fathered six children by his Martha. However, a visit to his home is arranged for a single man including the furniture.

At the same time he was in the dilemma of dedicating his love to Maria, his eldest daughter Patsy lives in Paris with him but another one dies in Virginia. The youngest daughter is sent to live with him together with her slave nanny Sally Hemming. Sally is only 15 years when she comes to Paris and Jefferson takes her some presents like necklaces as she visits him in his bedroom for a flirt. He finally succumbs to the affection of this younger daughter’s nurse.  She was his wife’s half-sister who was begotten by her biological father with one of the mulatto slaves.

Considering the relationship between the master and the slave is the central reason why the film, ‘Jefferson in Paris’ was done. The filmmaker appeared to have very little information about the nature of their emotional state. He does not know whether Sally was in love with Jefferson or she just acted seductively with him due to the influence of power. At the close of the film, she is pregnant of Jefferson but, when he discusses her plight, he appears to talk as if he has forgotten the pregnancy in her.

When the United States president offers Jefferson a position of the Secretary Of State in the country, he accepts the offer and prepares to sail back home with his family. However, James (Sally’s brother) is unwilling to return home after enjoying freedom in Paris and urges sally to remain with him. However, after Jefferson assuring James and Sally, who is expectant of Jefferson’s child, of their freedom that they agree to leave with him.

In the film is a remote figure that comes towards the end of the movie on whether Jefferson actually knew he was having Sally in bed.  However, the audience knows that he actually fathered one of her child but they aren’t sure if he thought about it. Perhaps, his minds were occupied by the new appointment and the philosophies that go with it. There are political discussions at the time including slave rights and Jefferson seems more confused on what he thinks about the issue. 

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