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March 14th, 2006:
At the age of 14, Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst
) was the Archduchess of Austria and as part of a peace treaty between Austria and France, she was sent away by her mother to marry the 15-year-old Louis-Auguste (Jason Schwartzman
), grandson of Louis XV (Rip Torn
) and heir to the French throne. The two were wed at the Palace of Versailles within hours of meeting each other. Due to the awkwardness of the situation and their mutual inexperience and unfamiliarity with sex, the two did not consummate their marriage on their wedding night and then, possibly, for several more years. The royal marriage was quickly viewed as a sham and the public saw Marie Antoinette’s capricious and naively imaginative nature as a weakness. She also quickly made enemies with Louis XV’s mistress, Madame du Barry (Asia Argento
). Upon the king’s death from smallpox in 1774, Louis-Auguste was coronated and became Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette became the queen of France at the age of 18.What to Expect:
Marie Antoinette’s highly extravagant and frivolous attitude toward money, her excessive fondness for expensive clothing and relentless gambling, and her tendency to separate herself from other royalty, made her a very unpopular queen. Louis XVI’s reign as king was marked by poor judgment and bad luck and finally resulted in an outcry from the people, leading to the French Revolution. The public ostracized the royal couple and treated them as prisoners for the latter years of their lives, eventually beheading both Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette at the guillotine. Article continues below
Loosely based on Lady Antonia Fraser’s noted historical account, The Journey
, Marie-Antoinette will tell the story of one of the most abused and misunderstood women in history, chronicling primarily the first five years of her marriage. The Oscar-winning writer-director Sofia Coppola
adapted the book herself and knowing her sensibilities this will be a highly stylized historical piece. Coppola intended Marie-Antoinette to be her follow-up to The Virgin Suicides, but while writing, she struggled with the historical aspects and the vast array of characters, delaying the production. She distracted herself by simultaneously dabbling in another screenplay, which would eventually become the unforgettable Lost in Translation. The critical success of that film, paired with Coppola’s Oscar for best original screenplay, rejuvenated her desire to finish Marie-Antoinette.
Here I should probably confess how much I admire Lost in Translation as I find it to be one of the best films to come out this decade. The mesmerizing, surreal beauty of the curious Japanese landscape, punctuated by swarming lights and neon signs was an essentially hypnotizing component of Coppola’s film, which successfully evoked a sense of subtle confusion and helplessness that can be experienced in a drastically foreign land. Coppola was so effective at stirring up feelings of pathos and unspoken understanding between her two star-crossed lovers/friends (Bill Murray
and Scarlett Johansson
) that I was overcome by a sense of nostalgia as if though I had experienced the relationship myself somewhere in my distant past. For me, it possessed that rare and inexplicable power of the cinema as it had the ability to engulf me and become a complete part of my reality for a few hours. It was a unique experience and, for anyone who has seen Lost in Translation, a good indication of the style and content that Marie-Antoinette will ultimately have.
The film reunites Coppola with Kirsten Dunst (Bring it On, Spider-Man, Wimbledon), the star of her first feature, The Virgin Suicides. That movie too explored themes of adolescent girls held captive by forces greater than them (in this case their parents), unable to act out freely as teenage girls, the way nature would dictate them. Dunst was able to suggest a sense of sadness in that film that will be essential to her role in Marie-Antoinette. In all likelihood, the film will approach the subject from a very humane and sympathetic angle, portraying the protagonist as a naïve Viennese girl, lacking a solid connection to reality, and a victim of a system that created her. Marie Antoinette’s daily routines consisted of being helped out of bed and getting dressed up by her ladies-in-waiting, only to be accompanied outdoors for a public meal. Later on, she was even subjected to giving birth to her first child in the presence of hundreds of spectators. There was something quite depressing about that era and the constricting manner in which the nobles had to behave. Coppola admittedly refused to read Stefan Zweig’s famous biography of the French queen, hoping to avoid any harsh treatment of her subject. As a result, she will probably strive to go beyond a straightforward historical recreation, concentrating more on artistic truth and ensuring that her film identifies with the tragic Marie Antoinette.
It becomes relatively clear that the film will continue Coppola’s fascination with adolescent girls, who are held prisoner in some part by their own privileges. Perhaps the inspiration comes from Coppola’s own childhood, having grown up in front of her father’s (Francis Ford Coppola
) camera. At age 19, she was given a substantial role in The Godfather: Part III, which instantly became an obvious target for many critics to attack. Some pointed to her as being “the reason” that the film was ultimately a failure. It’s easy to see how her celebrity upbringing may have had an impact on her and is part of where she draws her artistic inspiration. Personally, I am looking forward to this endeavor as any film that provides a glimpse into the life of its creator always fascinates me.In Conclusion:
Marie-Antoinette should be a modern, elegant, and visually stunning historical film, with emphasis on the heroine’s miserable existence and teenage rebellion that would be normal and perfectly appropriate outside the context. For anyone concerned that the film may be best suited for female audiences, I’m sure it will focus on various male dilemmas as well, including Luis XVI’s impotence. The French Government gave Coppola special permission to shoot at the Palace of Versailles and consequently, the film should have accurate and lavish sets and costumes. Marie-Antoinette will probably be another successful feature for Coppola, further cementing her presence in the newest generation of young and important filmmakers. Through critical acclaim and word of mouth, the film should build up a solid audience and respectable box-office numbers.Similar Titles: The Virgin Suicides
, Pride & Prejudice
, The Graduate