Monday, October 30, 2006

Marie Antoinette – Movie Review

Another week, another movie about a Queen living in her claustrophobic world where her royal life shelters herself (and her husband) from the realities of her people, and any sense of understanding their plight.

So I was out-voted from seeing Shut Up and Sing (until they saw the trailer and realised what it was and now want to see it), and The Departed was actually still sold out, so we saw Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, only apparently I was the only one who realised it was directed by Sofia Coppola going into the movie (which will probably help you understand the movie a lot more if you do know this fact). Otherwise the entire movie is a rambling mood piece with Kirsten Dunst frolicking about Versailles to modern rock music and with very few details about the French Revolution surrounding her Marie Antoinette ever being shown, and basically a long movie about a spoiled rich teenage brat in great clothes at a historical backdrop.

Or you can see the movie as:

A beautifully rendered portrait of a teenage girl thrown into wealth, power and protocol, slowly reigning in the manoeuvres to remain in her position as wife of the future King of France. Marie Antoinette lives in the bubble that is Versailles, surrounding herself with all the pleasures she has learned to appreciate, or anything at least to keep herself away from boredom, as she is never taken to informing herself of the plight of the people of France.

The brilliancy of the movie is that we all know what happens with Marie Antoinette. We all know the “Let Them Eat Cake” phrase (debunked in the movie because apparently she never actually said it), and we all knew it was “Off with her head”, but with historical figures always drawn in dry and flat tellings, Sofia Coppola draws a portrait of how such a thing could possibly happen. The King and Queen were extremely young and unprepared to hold such power. They had removed themselves from the people (and centre of politics of Paris) to live and surround themselves in an isolated castle at Versailles, where they lived in the delicious spoils of the French monarchy. Eventually, they literally surrounded themselves with farm animals while running through tall green grass, subconsciously declaring themselves completely cut off from the people of France.

The film gives little hints to the happenings outside the walls of Versailles, but through most of the film, we are locked alongside Marie Antoinette within the palatial chateau, where boredom subsides and the only cure she was brought up to understand was that of more spending, more partying, and manoeuvring through social politics, not actual politics of running a country. It’s a woman essentially trapped by her own wealth, power, and ignorance, with the isolation theme generally a running exploration through Sofia Coppola movies (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides).

The movie films all the excess living beautifully, which is aided by the fact that they had access to the real Versailles to use. The costumes, the food, the shoes, the parties, the evergrowing towering hairstyles, are all glowingly shot, and the pacing gives a good indication of Marie Antoinette’s life of royal protocol boredom with the few hits of pure excitement, so yes, it’ll be boring to many of you all, a fascinating and intricate examination for others.

A- or 9/10

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