The popular biopic directed by Sophia Ford Coppola, “Marie Antoinette” tries to set the record straight by looking into much-hated French queen’s cloistered life. The movie depicts the doomed monarch as leading a cloistered life within the confines of the unabashedly lavish palaces, outfits and the surroundings of the French royalty, and tries to set the record straight by giving a glimpse of her ilfe through the bubble.
The movie begins in Marie Antoinette’s home in Vienna, where she was born Archduchess Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen, the youngest child of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. The teenager (she’s only 14) is betrothed to Louis Auguste of France to cememnt ties between Austria and France.
The adolescent arrives in France alone, and deprived of all her possessions, including the clothes on her body (a French custom), bearing sole responsibility for establishing the allaince between the two countries. Louis Auguste would later be crowned as Louis XVI, and Maria Antonia would be transformed to the French variation, Marie Antoinette.
The xenophobic French aristocracy and much of the nation’s population see her as an arrogant foreigner. And so begin a series of courtly formalities day after day, and Marie Antoinette does her gracious best to live amidst the loneliness, the rumors and the hatred. She is unfairly blamed for failing to produce an heir immediately to assure the succession of the royal family and establish herself as the French Queen. The movie shows the real reason for the failing as her husband’s low sexual appetite.
She finally does give birth to a son and a daughter, and Marie Antoinette does her gracious best to fulfill all that is expected of her. The movie dispells the vicious rumor of her numerious affiars (only one, when her uninterested husband is away), and the infamous “Let them eat cake” remark, which truth be told, she never uttered.
The young queen discovers herself along the way, preferring to live in a simple, garden cottage rather than the palace, and immersing herself in the study of the arts, while raising her two children.
She is depicted as having little influence over her husband’s policies that led to the French Revolution, which was brewing even as the teenager takes comfort in the perks of being royalty—the magnificent balls, the grandiose palaces and opulent gardens, extravagant dresses and shoes and decadent food. It is shown as something any youngster would do under the circumstances, and the viewers do not even get a glimpse of the starvation and poverty being experienced by her people. It is precisely these excesses which cost her and her family their heads, but the Marie Antoinette in the movie is blissfully unaware of her nation’s mood which begins to inch dangerously close to open hatred for the royals and calls for the abolishing the monarchy become louder as the years go by.
The movie shows a side of the famous woman whose story is seldom told through her eyes, although the accuracy of the depiction is questionable. The actors are a strange assortment who fall short of filling the shoes of the complicated characters they intend to portray. An ill-cast Jason Schwartzman is Louis XVI, while the pleasing Kirsten Dunst does little more than look pretty and sad in different ball gowns.
“Marie Antoinette” is a visual treat but does nothing more than take us on a whirlwind tour of the shamelessly rich of the 18th century.
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