Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Off with their heads!
I can trace my indifference to royal families back to the last year of junior school. I'd just battered Joanne Pierce (not her real name) and had received a proper telling off from the Head. I was fuming and she (Joanne) was still crying. I thought her weak and stupid and she probably thought I was some horrible bully. We were told to make up. I refused. In an attempt to get us talking the school secretary took us into the library and said she had a secret letter to show us. It turned out to be from the Queen congratulating the school on its forthcoming centenary. Joanne Pierce started swooning and fainting at this piece of news. I, on the other hand, demanded to know “What's so special about the Queen?”
A few years on, during my A-levels, I became fascinated by another royal family. French - and long gone – Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (hardly surprising given I was studying French and history). I honed my essay-writing skills analysing the causes and consequences of the French Revolution and by the time I reached uni was discoursing on Du Contrat Social in French no less.
So, it was with scepticism that I agreed to see Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette with my mum. She'd seen photos of the costumes and decided this was a 'must-see'.
The film was a visual feast. There's no end to the words to describe the costumes, the food, the scenery. Sumptuous, exquisite, magnificent. Fabulous, luxurious, extravagant. (“How much do you think that cost to make?” mum whispered at the end).
I'm sure I'm not the only person to comment, however, that this is a costume drama without much drama. Marie Antoinette leaves Austria to be married to the Dauphin at the age of 14. They become King and Queen of France at a young age. He goes hunting and plays with locks. She drinks, eats and spends a tremendous amount of money on clothes. The mob appear at the very end (no mention of the trouble brewing through the rest of the film) but unfortunately we do not see Kirsten Dunst or Jason Schwartzman lose their heads.
This would have been poetic justice. Coppola may argue that she intentionally created a King and Queen who did not have the authority or gravitas of a king or queen. (Louis moans “We are too young to rule!”). What we end up with are two vapid, superficial characters dressed in authentic 18th century finery with modern American accents engaging in banal 21st century dialogue. (Think spoilt brat dressing up for a laugh; Paris Hilton would have done just as well). Add to this music from Mozart to New Wave and you can easily see how critics have liberally employed two words: contradiction and anachronism.
Ultimately, Marie Antoinette, looks good but lacks depth of any kind.