Writing about Lost in Translation last friday, made me think about the following film by Sofia Coppola: Marie Antoinette -an historical comedy-drama released in 2006 loosely based on the biography 'The life of The Queen consort'. The film is, again, written as well as directed by Coppola and offers a complete new portrait of the queen played by Kirsten Dunst, giving here her best performance before Melancholia.
Expectations were high for the film Marie Antoinette considering Sofia Coppola came from the huge and unexpected global success of Lost in Translation. But in Cannes, where it was given its world premiere, although given most favored for the Palme d'Or, Marie Antoinette was not so much appreciated.
The approach to character of Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, is actually quite unusual. The film is not historic: in fact the French revolution and social context practically are not seen, and the film ends before the queen's beheading. It is all about the queen's young years, when she arrives teenager from Vienna to the French court betrothed to the future king, an extremely difficult position for such a young girl evidently not yet ready for the responsibilities of high rank.
The young foreign queen consistently ruffles feathers by defying the French court ritualistic formality, something that makes her position more and more difficult at court and in the eyes of France, growing progressively in poverty. She finds solace in buying elaborate gowns and shoes, eating lavish pastries, and gambling with her ladies.
|note: among the shoes bought by Marie Antoinette, was a pair of mauve "Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars"|
The film continues throughout Marie Antoinette change: after giving birth to her first daughter she will spend more time away from court in a small chateau on the grounds of Versailles. It is also at this time that she begins an alleged affair with a Swedish Count- von Fersen.
Beginning to mature, she focuses less on her social life and more on her family, and makes what she considers to be some significant financial adjustments. Nevertheless the French Revlution takes place and the royal family will be forced to leave Versailles for Paris. The film ends with their transference to the Tuileries. The last image is a shot of the Queen's bedroom, destroyed by looters.
Sofia Coppola unusual and visually stunning approach is in facts the reason why I liked the film. Hers is yet another movie about a feeling and a mood, and is a challenging effort to give back and restore the dignity and fragility of queen Marie Antoinette as a human being, as a young girl in the difficult process of growing into a woman.
Filmed mostly in the sumptuous interiors of the palace of Versailles, offering the viewer a lavish reconstruction of details and magnificent costumes by Milena Canonero (Oscar 2006), the real film strength lies in the portrayal of the protagonist with an interesting modern approach.
To the rhythms of techno, acid, rock 80s (Cure, Air, New Order, Bow Wow Wow, Phoenix) alternating with period music, the bright Dunst embodies grace and mischief this queen teenager.
Note: Milena Canonero and six assistant designers created the gowns, hats, suits and prop costume pieces. Shoes were made by Manolo Blahnik and Pompei, and hundreds of wigs and hair pieces were made by Rocchetti & Rocchetti. Ladurée made the pastries for the film; its famous macarons are featured in a scene between Marie-Antoinette and Ambassador Mercy.