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Friday, January 29, 2016

Caught on Tape: Marie Antoinette


As you might well imagine, Marie Antoinette is one of the favorite subjects of historical films because the story is both dramatic and tragic (similar to how there is a plethora of Tudor films). Oh, and don’t forget those glittering beautiful gowns!! Today’s segment of Caught on Tape looks at the portrayal of Marie Antoinette in film from 1938 to the present. Who portrayed her best? Let’s find out!

Farewell, My Queen (2012)
“In July 1789, the French Revolution is rumbling. Far from the turmoil, at the Ch√Ęteau de Versailles, King Louis XVI, Queen Marie-Antoinette and their courtiers keep on living their usual carefree lives. But when the news of the storming of the Bastille reaches them, panic sets in and most of the aristocrats and their servants desert the sinking ship, leaving the Royal Family practically alone. Which is not the case of Sidonie Laborde, the Queen's reader, a young woman, entirely devoted to her mistress; she will not give her up under any circumstances. What Sidonie does not know yet is that these are the last three days she will spend in the company of her beloved Queen...” 
Farewell, My Queen focuses on a few short days during the French Revolution as things start looking bad for the royals. The story is told through the eyes of one of the Queen’s servants, so you get an insider, but outsider view of the drama unfolding. A lesbian storyline was included in the relationship between the Queen and the Duchess de Polignac, which probably didn’t happen but was added based on scandal sheets of the time. Farewell, My Queen has received many prestigious recognitions. Diane Kruger plays Queen Marie Antoinette. It is a French film and is based on the award winning novel, Les Adieux √† la reine, by Chantal Thomas and is absolutely visually stunning. It is available for streaming on Amazon Prime. This scene below is an excellent representation of the relationship between the two women as portrayed in this film.

Here is my full review.


Marie Antoinette (2006)
“The retelling of France's iconic but ill-fated queen, Marie Antoinette. From her betrothal and marriage to Louis XVI at 15 to her reign as queen at 19 and to the end of her reign as queen and ultimately the fall of Versailles.”
Portrayed by Kristin Dunst, this is the Marie Antoinette film I feel that the majority know (notably for its semi-recent release and star stature (both in the acting and the director, Sofia Coppola). It won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design which I whole-heartedly agree with, they are gorgeous costumes. I watched this film a while ago as part of a college women’s art class (as well as the rest of Coppola’s films) and wasn’t really impressed with any of this director’s works. I felt that the film lacked depth and was very surface and frilly. I also didn’t really like the integration of very modern, punk type music, with the historical drama – very jarring. It has been criticized by historians for hardly featuring any information on the political situation of the time and a far from accurate portrayal of the Queen. Not a favorite of mine and not my favorite portrayal of Marie Antoinette. The clip below fairly represents my thoughts on the whole film.

Here is my review of the whole film (note, my thoughts might have changed a little bit from the above).


The Affair of the Necklace (2001)
“In pre-Revolutionary France, a young aristocratic woman left penniless by the political unrest in the country, must avenge her family's fall from grace by scheming to steal a priceless necklace.”
The Affair of the Diamond Necklace was one of the elements that contributed to the downfall of the Queen. Although everything that had happened had transpired without her knowledge, the spin was that the Queen was spending precious money on frippery while the populace was going hungry. A great concept for a film. The film primarily focuses on the story of Jeanne de Saint-Remy de Valois (played by Hilary Swank) who is party of the rouse to steal the necklace. The Queen is but a secondary character here, played by Joely Richardson. Inspired by the events the film does take many historical liberties and the negative reviews of the film are mostly focused on the performance of Swank. I quite like the scene I chose below because it entirely focuses on the Queen and the arrival of the necklace (I’m not a fan of Swank either).

My review of the film can be found here.


L'Autrichienne (1990)
“A French film focusing on the last days of Marie Antoinette, primarily his imprisonment, trial, and its aftermath.”
This film was produced as part of the celebrations of the French Revolution’s bicentenary and based primarily on the transcripts of the trial of the Queen. Marie is not beautiful here as in the 3 previous films, but rather dressed down in the simpler gowns for prison. It has a sad feel to it, none of the breaks of gaiety. I found the entire film available on Youtube, but I haven’t yet found English subtitles. The scene below shows Marie in prison.


Marie Antoinette (1938)
“The tragic life of Marie Antoinette, who became queen of France in her late teens.”
The 1930’s loved to make historical dramas. The film was based on the non-fiction book, Marie Antoinette: The Portrait of an Average Woman, which was published in 1932. It was one of the most expensive films of the year, but did quite well for itself. Norma Shearer plays Marie Antoinette and Tyrone Power plays Count Axel Fersen (both big Hollywood names of the time).  Norma Shearer was pretty excellent as Marie - maybe too old for some of the early scenes, but was able to walk the delicate line between frivolous/dramatic/lonely.  The costumes are said to be very accurate, and should be since they are said to have the highest cost for a films costumes ever! While it might not be the most accurate in its storytelling, I love these old films! The scene below is Marie’s arrival at Versailles.

Here is my entire review of this film.


Have you seen any of these films? Or any others I didn’t mention? There are MANY more films and television representations than I chose to highlight here. I like the look of Farewell, My Queen the best, but enjoy the story from Marie Antoinette (1938) the most. The trend seems to be to make a film on her whole life, the last couple of days of her life, or The Affair of the Necklace. I would love to hear what you think!




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