Marie Antoinette (2006): “Letting everyone down would be my greatest unhappiness.”

marie_antoinette_ver3_xlgSofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006) focuses on a controversial figure in France’s history; a Queen who at the end of her life was judged by public opinion rather than by her own actions. The film is a re-telling of her life from age 15 to 33, from Marie Antoinette’s betrothal to Louis XVI, to her crowning as Queen and the birth of her children, to the end of her reign during the French Revolution.

Normally with films adapted from historical events I tend to get on my high horse about their accuracy, but with this one I don’t mind too much about its inaccuracies. I think it’s because I find this alternate narrative about a woman finding her place in a foreign society sufficient enough to tell a different kind of story about the young queen. Although the film does sacrifice character development in favour of its luxurious aesthetic, I don’t mind that either because what results is one of the most visually beautiful films of recent times. Kirsten Dunst is absolutely charming as Marie Antoinette, and somehow the film makes her seem a lot more relatable to young women than history would have us believe. Likewise, Jason Schwartzman is kind of adorable as her husband, the King Louis XVI, who is presented as someone initially more interested in locksmithing than developing a mature relationship with his new wife.

But this film’s most famous attribute is its amazing aesthetic. Coppola’s characteristic use of pastel hues, soft lighting, and beautiful establishing shots makes Marie Antoinette an absolute treat to watch. The general feel of this film is similar to The Virgin Suicides (1999), with a sense of foreboding darkness that seems to permeate even the lighter moments. The cinematography by Lance Acord is heavy on the use of symmetry contrasted with occasional asymmetrical shots to convey a sense of chaos, whether it’s in terms of shoes being scattered on the ground, or in terms of the social conventions at the time that are considered completely crazy by the teenage princess. Scenes inside of Versailles and the royal court consist of a buzzing energy with lots of busy patterns and busy people, but the more tranquil external environment is rendered in earthy tones, simple design, and a more calm atmosphere.

Here are some of my favourite moments from Marie Antoinette, which I’ve mixed up to avoid spoiling the story (if you’re unaware of how her story ends). Do you have a particular favourite scene from this film? It seems to me that everyone has at least one!

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4/5
Watch the trailer here.

Images sourced from the amazing Evan E. Richards.

Watch this movie at Amazon!

36 comments

  1. Great pictures. My sis loved the fashion.

    1. I did too, the costumes were really amazing!

  2. Loved this film as well. It came in for a lot of unfair criticism when it was released…

    1. I agree! I think a lot of people see it as an exercise in frivolity, but it does have more depth than some might think.

  3. Have you seen this piece? http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/how-to-make-a-sofia-coppola-movie

    Sums up how I feel about Sofia Coppola. Her movies are all so similar; some work for me and others don’t. Marie Antoinette didn’t but there were flashes of a great movie hidden in it.

    1. Oh man, I hadn’t seen that article before but I agree with about ten per cent of it! Sofia Coppola isn’t my favourite director of all time but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a director sticking to certain motifs or aesthetic elements or themes in films. Heaps of directors do it and not everyone is levelled with the same amount of criticism. I guess it’s a matter of whether you resonate with her favourite things or not!

      1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a director exploring the same thematic/aesthetic territory, so long as they manage to find new insights each time. That’s why Coppola, Tarantino, and Wes Anderson (to name a few) have started to bore me tremendously – they’re just on autopilot sleepwalking through making the same movie again and again.

  4. I really liked the movie, I thought it was quite brave both with the way it was done and the way it ended just before everything turned into tragedy. Most of directors while doing movie about her couldn’t help themselves and showed the gruesome end but not Sofia.

    1. I really loved that about it as well! So many people would think that the execution would the most emotionally affecting moment, but that final reflective shot as she’s looking out to the grounds of Versailles was so sad.

      P.S. Absolutely LOVED Under the Skin. So many feelings about it that it’s difficult to write about!

  5. Sometimes it’s interesting, sometimes it seems meandering, as if Coppola herself can’t really figure out where she wants to go with this story and what she wants to say about these characters. It looks and sounds wonderful, though. Good review.

    1. Thanks! πŸ™‚ That’s the thing with Sofia Coppola – even if the content of her films don’t work for you, at least you know you’ll be looking at and listening to something really beautiful.

  6. I saw this in 2006 when it came out, I’m pretty sure. All I remember is pastries, pastries, pastries, and everything in pastel! Oh, and the nude scene when she crosses the border. I remember it won the Oscar for best costumes. The screenshots reminded me of how gorgeous it is!

    1. Yeah, watching this film makes me feel really hungry! So many amazing pastries, but they look so artfully constructed that you almost wouldn’t want to eat them. Such a beautiful film, typical Sofia Coppola!

  7. hey HO its behead a rich c**t monday

    1. Haha! That’s like every day in revolutionary France.

  8. Anna – would I like this? I think not. Thanks for doing this πŸ™‚

    1. Probably not! But I would still be interested in reading your thoughts on it! Maybe for the next Shitfest if you really hate it. πŸ˜‰

      1. GOOD THINKING!!! A Shitfest always needs some Coppola in it….

  9. Wonderful post! I’ve only seen glimpses of this film years ago, but I love both Coppola and Dunst, so I think a real watch is in order. The screencaps are beyond gorgeous!

    1. Thanks Elina! πŸ™‚ You definitely have to see this! It’s like a visual feast for Sofia Coppola fans.

  10. I remember this being beautiful but terribly long.

    1. It’s funny, I always forget about how long it is until I’m about two thirds of the way in!

  11. markkadams · · Reply

    Nice write-up. Great movie.

    1. Thank you! πŸ™‚

  12. Super little write-up Anna, I am getting a little more interested in Coppola after seeing Lost in Translation. However, the only other thing that I’ve seen of hers was The Bling Ring, which I loathed. So I’m kinda 50-50 on her. Wondering where this one falls in there. Are characters here detestable like they have been in her others? πŸ˜‰

    1. Thanks Tom! πŸ™‚ Some of the characters in Marie Antoinette could be interpreted as detestable, but nowhere near the level of detestability as the kids in The Bling Ring!

  13. I aboslutely adore this film and I went to Versailles recently and they’re totally ruining the place in favor of making more bucks out of tourists 😦

    1. That’s such a shame! How so? I want to visit Versailles before it gets totally ruined!

  14. Great review Anna! I love this movie, really the best part is the aesthetics of the whole film. Every shot is just beautifully composed. One of my favorite Sofia flicks.

    1. Thanks! πŸ™‚ I agree, it’s just such a beautiful film. Some might criticise it as being shallow, but you can’t deny that Sofia makes extremely visually appealing films.

      1. Agreed, it is a beautiful film. Speaking of Coppola’s did you see Palo Alto ever?

        1. Not yet! I don’t think it’s in cinemas here until later this month. But I’m still really looking forward to seeing it!

          1. Oh yes! I always forget you are in Aussie land. πŸ™‚

  15. This is my favorite movie by Sofia Coppola, Yeah I said it. I liked the use of modern music attached to the scenes. For some reason worked for me. I will agree it is a visual beautiful film that I would put along side Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon

    1. This is the latest comment response ever from me, but I love your comparison to Barry Lyndon here! Now that is one beautifully constructed film.

  16. […] film.Β The Virgin SuicidesΒ (1999) is gorgeous, and I’ve also previously waxed lyrical about Marie Antoinette (2006), a visual confection of a film that looks amazing but was a bit light on story for some. Lost […]

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