Marie Antoinette: A Beautiful Film With A Tragic End

Marie Antoinette                                                  Sofia Coppola 

 

Giovanna Silva                                                    Historical Drama

 

The famous last queen of France was only 14 when she was sent off to marry “the Dauphin of France.” The film Marie Antoinette directed by Sofia Coppola structures the plot in a way that injects this youthfulness into the collapse of the French monarchy. The historical drama follows Marie Antoinette (Kristen Dunst) on her journey from Austria to France and displays her struggles with how she is perceived by the royal court. It shows her attempts to produce an heir, her conflicts with court protocol and how she comforts herself in increasingly lavish and extravagant ways. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, the French population’s situation becomes steadily more grave. Soon thereafter, her reputation takes a hit, and she becomes the scapegoat of the french revolution.

 

As ludicrous as fashion in the 18th century was, few historical inaccuracies can be found in the costuming of this film. The few that were present are easily explainable creative liberties. For example,  the cast of Marie Antoinette is more often than not wearing pastels. While this might not be the most common colour palette for this era, it does an excellent job of once again showing the character’s innocence and youth as well as demonstrating the newness and poshness of France for Marie Antoinette. The only notable exception of this is towards the end of the movie, and it is again easy to see why. Throughout the film, what the characters are dressed in helps express the mood of the time and helps viewers easily differentiate the three acts. Therefore in the last act where there is death and the fall of the monarchy, it makes sense for the dresses and other garments to be in darker, deeper shades as opposed to the bright and joyful colours of the first act or the more calming and serene tones of the second. 

 

Kristen Dunst was cast as Marie Antoinette in this film, and whether or not she was the right choice for this role is a hard decision to make as her performance in the first half of the film was convincing, with her genuinely acting like a young teen while being a good lot older. Still, her acting lacked the emotional range needed for the second half of the movie. On the other hand, something that did not falter once throughout the two-hour film was the soundtrack. With its clever mixing of classical music composed in the 18th century and music from the more recent post-punk era, it has an unexpected but not unwelcome modern twist. These songs, from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, help show the emotional turmoil and conflict occurring in the younger, seemingly more carefree characters and creates a beautiful juxtaposition with the classical pieces played when the same characters are forced to act older than they indeed are as well as when they are bound to conform to the rigid customs of the monarchy at the time.

 

When Comtesse de Provence gives birth to a son in a seemingly joyful scene, Marie Antoinette’s mental health takes a huge hit as she still hasn’t been successful in her attempts to create the heir to the throne so coveted by the French court and population alike. The scene ends with Marie Antoinette crying alone in her chambers and quickly cuts to a shot of gorgeous shoes, and the intro to the iconic song “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow can be heard. In the three minutes that follow, there are closeups of fizzling champagne, gorgeous shoes, intricate fabrics, mouth-watering sweets and, of course, pastel poker chips. Along with this, she gets a towering hairdo, at least twice as tall as her head embellished with bright feathers and small, delicate-looking birds. The end result of this scene could definitely pass off as a music video for the song. Although at first glance, this scene might seem like it does nothing to drive the plot forward, it is a pivotal moment in the film. Before this Marie Antoinette was hardly seen spending copious amounts of money on anything. In fact, in comparison to other members of the court, she seems pretty down to earth with her spending habits. So when she breaks down it makes sense for her to be influenced by those around her and use expensive parties and shopping sprees as a sort of therapy. From this point of the movie on the audience can expect a lavish party scene or something equivalent whenever anything unsettling occurs. In the end, it is this that brings Marie Antoinette’s downfall and what causes her own subjects to despise her.  

This film offers a beautiful viewing experience and in the end because of its divine costumes, the clever soundtrack, the amazing “I Want Candy” scene that will forever be embedded in my memory and its general charming asthetic I would rate it a ⅘ stars. As for the audience Marie Antoinette would be most enjoyable for people who appreciate historical films but wouldn’t be too torn up because of historical inaccuracies, as well as people who enjoy the teen dramas popular in the 2000s. Additionally, people who enjoy more action-heavy and high stake plots may not find this movie as riveting as I personally did.