Sofia 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!
Watch the trailer here.
Images sourced from the amazing Evan E. Richards.
Watch this movie at Amazon!