Saturday, March 7, 2009
Marie Antoinette. Feature film. (2006, 123 mins) IMDB
familiar story based on real events. It's been told before, so why tell it again? I do not know.
It's the late 1700s in Austria and France. Lots of costumes and more costumes. When inside a palace, the rooms are as gilded and ornate as any in the world. (I can't imagine how people can live in them, but another time and place). When outside, the grounds are trimmed and green and filled with colours from flowers. Oh, yes, and all those costumes.
There are horses to pull carriages and horses to carry men during the hunt. Then all those extras with their costumes. Filling an opera house. Filling a ball room. Filling the grounds as Marie makes her first entrance at Versailles.
I don't understand royalty and all their attendants. The film makes a point of odd aspects of being a young princess and later queen. When morning arrives for Marie, a curtain around her bed is pulled back and an audience stands around as she gets dressed. She's stripped naked and bathed and perfumed and dressed all the while many woman looking on. I don't get it. Not in real life or in the film. Certainly it's odd, but do we really need to see it?
The film starts with the young princess still living in Austria. An arrangement has been made where she'll go to France, marry the future king and become Queen. And off she goes to France. She gets married. The people around her gossip. She's alone in a new world.
A large focus of the first half of the film is on her getting pregnant, to give France a future king. It's tough to do when your husband won't have sex with you. Why that's the case is never explained in the movie although the implication is Louis XVI is a nerd and a dork.
The film wants to be a comedy, not a farce or satire. Why else would you cast Rip Torn as Louis XV and Jason Schwartzman as Louis XVI? As a comedy it fails because there's not much in the way of laughter and given the ending, I don't need to spell it out, it's not comedy.
Eventually Louis XV dies and Marie becomes Queen along side her husband. She eventually has three children one of whom dies, but trouble is brewing in North America and France sends money and soldiers to help. Meanwhile there is trouble in France. People are starving and their own revolution begins.
Act III of the film deals with this darker period in France's history and the life of Marie Antoinette. It ends when the couple and their children are forced from Versailles. Their fate known, but not shown.
It was clear from the start of the film the filmmakers wanted to bring something new and different and approachable for young audiences. It's the only reason pop/rock songs are played throughout.
The film's POV is entirely Marie's. Rarely does it shift to another scene where she's not in it. Those types of scenes where two other characters talk and we get some insight or advancement in the plot of the story. Not in this film.
What makes the film an historical film is the underlying story, setting and costumes, but from there the film diverts from traditional filmmaking. The music is one aspect of that divergence, the other is the narrative and POV we see. It looks like an historical film, but feels like something else. I'm not sure if it's good or bad, but it's different.
Part of the difference is the lack of dialogue. Much of the first act is devoid of dialogue. It's a procession of visuals as Marie transverses from young girl to young wife. And while you might think that's boring, it isn't. There's a story being told with pictures. Granted most people would be bored with it.
There are certainly times when I felt a replay of musical notes and I mean that in a figurative sense. A replay of notes from LOST IN TRANSITION and this film. I suppose you could say directors have signatures and preferences and I sensed it but I can't point to something specific at the moment.
While I was never bored or uninterested with this film, I wasn't enthralled or carried away either. There must be some attempt to parallel Marie's life with modern day women, and I suppose if I thought about it long enough I'd come up with something. If that's not the intention and reason for making this film, then why bother. The film is devoid of suspense. We know her life story.
Some may argue, it's about rewriting her life story, I should say, they want to put a positive light on this person's life, fine, except why? It obviously won't change history and what does it matter what we think of her.
Posted 2009/03/07 at 19h57ET in Movie Commentary.