Directed By: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Rip Torn
Tag line: "At 15 she became a bride. At 19 she became a queen. By 20 she was a legend"
Trivia: Sofia Coppola had Spanish footwear designer Manolo Blahnik create hundreds of specially made shoes for the film
Director Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antionette is a dramatic retelling of the life of a young girl who, as a teenager, married the future king of France. And though an uprising would lead to her execution in 1792 at the age of 37, the young queen clearly relished the privileges of her title and rank while they lasted, presented here in a way that 21st century viewers will undoubtedly enjoy.
The youngest daughter of Austrian Empress Maria Theresa (Marianne Faithfull), 14-year-old Marie Antonia (Kirsten Dunst) was betrothed to Louis (Jason Schwartzman), the Dauphin, and future king, of France. Though it established a political alliance between the two countries, the early days of Louis and Maria’s marriage were far from happy. For one, Louis refused to consummate the union, which many believe was the fault of young Maria (now known in France as Marie Antionette). Try as she might, Marie couldn't enflame her new husband’s passions, which concerned both King Louis XV (Rip Torn) of France and Marie’s mother, who wrote to her often, reminding the teenage girl of both her wifely responsibilities and her duty to her home country (should the marriage be annulled, the already tense treaty between France and Austria would surely crumble). Marie’s standing was further threatened by her refusal to speak to Madame du Barry (Asia Argento), a commoner raised to royal rank because she was the King’s mistress.
Still, despite her difficulties, Marie remained popular at court, and after befriending the Duchess du Polignac (Rose Byrne), she began living an extravagant lifestyle, spending thousands on shoes and clothes and attending late-night parties. When Louis XV died, her husband ascended the throne, thus making young Marie Queen of France. Louis, realizing the need for an heir, got over his fear of sexuality, leading to the birth of several children. It was around this time that Marie began an illicit affair with Swedish Count Axel Ferson (Jamie Dornan), which ended when he was sent off to war. Continuing to spend money at an excessive rate, Marie’s popularity with the common citizens of France deteriorated, and as the result of a revolution, Louis was deposed as King, and he and Marie, along with their children, were imprisoned in the Palace at Versailles, where they awaited news of their ultimate fate.
With its strict attention to period detail, Marie Antionette is a gorgeous motion picture. Winning the 2006 Academy Award for Costume Design, and nominated for three BAFTA’s (for Costume; makeup & hair, and production design), the film brilliantly recreates the 18th century French court. Yet what makes it so engaging is the approach director Coppola took to the material, which was similar to the one Baz Luhrmann employed in 2001’s Moulin Rouge. Relying heavily on a contemporary musical score (highlighted by popular songs like Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” and “Ceremony” by New Order) as well as modern filming techniques (rapid cuts, hand-held cameras, sharp angles), Coppola ensured younger audience members could relate to this tale of a teenager living the whirlwind life of a queen.
A period piece about French royalty in the late 1700’s as seen through the eyes of a 21st century filmmaker, Marie Antionette infuses events set hundreds of years in the past with excitement and energy, and in so doing brings its story, and its characters, convincingly to life.