Farewell My Queen

By Moira Sullivan

In time for national independence day in France commemorating July 14, 1789 after the storming of the Bastille prison, is a new film about the events leading to the execution of Marie Antoinette directed by veteran filmmaker Benoît Jacquot.  

This story is about the relationship of Marie Antoinette with her reader in the final three days of the Versailles court. Diane Kruger plays Antoinette and the reader Sidonie Laborde is played by Léa Seydoux. The film begins with Sidonie being called by the queen to read  plays for her. On the way, Sidonie passes the haughty Duchess de Polignac, played by Virginie Leydoyen.  The regal airs of the Duchess surpass those of the queen, who is amazingly tender and affectionate to her servant and attends to her mosquito bites with rose water. At the same time Sidonie is a quietly effective observer of her queen and can be seen eavesdropping or scrutinizing the increasing tension at court prior to and following the storming of the Bastille.

It is not an easy story to witness the final days of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI before the barbaric execution of the royalty for their excesses in levying taxes amidst luxurious living in a growing class war between the peasant and aristocracy. Filmed at Versailles, it is true that Diane Kruger as Antoinette gives one of her best performances ever. She is soft, and emotional, firm and regal. Léa Seydoux is also excellent as the queen’s lady in waiting who knows what she wants out of life, and is one of the queen’s most loyal companions. True to her character Virginie Leydoyen plays the woman who abandons the queen and who dies of a broken heart because of it. The film is shot mostly indoors or on the palace grounds of Versailles and most of the story concerns the inner workings of the court, the intrigues, the gossip and the rigid differences between the royals and their servants.

Farewell my Queen is based on the novel by Chantal Thomas who co wrote the script with Gilles Taurand and director Benoît Jacquot.  The French helmer succeeds in creating an intense and foreboding tale of increasing suspense and his merits lay in his ability to draw out the emotions of his key players in a narrative that flows and intoxicates. We all know the fateful last minute attempts to spare Louis and his wife from the wrath of the French revolutionaries who were led to revolt by writers such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu, and the execution of the king and queen prior to the reign of Napoleon. The internal operations of the court from the point of view of Marie Antoinette and her relationship to her reader make for an intriguing tale told with excellent craftsmanship and performances.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 07/11/12
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