Thursday, July 11, 2013

Farewell, My Queen

Based on the novel by Chantal Thomas, Les adieux a la reine (Farewell, My Queen) is the story about the final days of Marie Antoinette’s reign as the Queen of France told from the perspective of a young servant. Directed by Benoit Jacquot and screenplay by Jacquot, Thomas, and Gilles Taurand, the film explores the life of a young woman as she watches a world crumble in the wake of the French Revolution. Starring Lea Seydoux, Virginie Ledoyen, Xavier Beauvois, and Diane Kruger as Marie Antoinette. Les adieux a la reine is an exquisite yet mesmerizing drama from Benoit Jacquot.

The film explores four days in the life of Marie Antoinette in July of 1789 as the French Revolution is underway. Yet, the story is told from the perspective of her reader Sidonie (Lea Seydoux) whose job is to read books for the Queen of France during a tumultuous moment in France. During the course of the film, Sidonie works as a servant to the Queen though there is never much information about this young woman as all she wants to do is fulfill her duties. Still, the chaos in Versailles couldn’t be ignored as Sidonie has to watch people flee in fear as she also encounters moments of despair from fellow servants and such. Particularly as the Queen’s relationship with the Duchess of Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen) no longer becomes secret where the Queen makes a drastic decision that will involve Sidonie.

The film’s script plays into these four days in Versailles where it starts off very peaceful where the first day reveals a day in the life of Sidonie where she works as the Queen’s reader and do other duties around the palace. While there’s small moments of chaos, it would build up to the point where Sidonie is unable to do her duties as she and other servants have to watch everything unfolding including brief glimpses of King Louis XVI (Xavier Beauvois) who is always surrounded by counsel. Though Sidonie is just a servant, she is treated the Queen as one of the few people in the palace she can trust while Sidonie has to watch from a far to see the Queen’s world unravel including a rare moment with the King to talk about their next move. Sidonie’s life outside of her duties with the Queen doesn’t reveal much as she’s a very mysterious woman as fellow servants are surprised by how little they know about her.

Benoit Jacquot’s direction is definitely engaging as it is shot on location in the palace of Versailles where Jacquot not only uses some stylistic wide and medium shots for some of the compositions. He also utilizes some intimate hand-held shots including scenes of Sidonie walking through a very crowded hallway late at night to display the sense of chaos in the palace. While there are moments where Sidonie isn’t in a scene or in the frame, Jacquot does make sure that she’s still present somewhere such as the Queen’s private meetings with the King and the Duchess of Polignac to see what exactly is happening. The film’s climax plays to Sidonie’s final assignment for the Queen which also relates to the Duchess of Polignac where it would reveal Sidonie’s true devotion for the Queen. Overall, Jacquot creates a compelling yet intoxicating film about a young woman’s loyalty to Marie Antoinette.

Cinematographer Romain Winding does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography to capture the lush beauty of the daytime interiors and exteriors of Versailles as well as more low-key yet naturalistic lighting schemes for the scenes at night. Editors Luc Barnier and Nelly Ollivault do excellent work with the editing to play up with some of the chaotic energy that occurs in the film while some of the editing is quite straightforward. Production designer Katia Wyszkop does brilliant work with the look of some of the rooms in the palaces along with the places where the servants live and eat at.

Costume designers Christian Gasc and Valerie Ranchoux do fantastic work with the costumes from the look of the dresses that many of the women wear to the clothes that the men wear in the palace. Sound editor Francis Wargnier does terrific work with the sound to create the intimacy of the scenes in the palace as well as the layers of people talking and such to establish the sense of unraveling in the palace. The film’s music by Bruno Coulais is wonderful for its lush, orchestral score to play out the drama as well as some of the film’s suspenseful moments as it relates to the uncertainty in the palace.

The casting by Antoinette Boulat is superb for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small performances from Anne Benoit as the lady-in-waiting Rose Bertin, Lolita Chammah and Marthe Caufman as a couple of fellow servants, Julie-Marie Parmentier as the servant Honorine who is a friend of Sidonie, Noemie Lvovsky as the Queen’s lady-in-waiting Madame Campan, Michel Robin as the palace historian Nicolas Moreau who is another person Sidonie likes, and Xavier Beauvois in a terrific performance as King Louis XVI. Virginie Ledoyen is excellent as the Duchess of Polignac as the Queen’s best friend who has to deal with the chaos of Versailles as well as having to part with the Queen.

Diane Kruger is brilliant as Marie Antoinette as a woman who is dealing with the unraveling of her world as she tries to maintain a brave face while being in anguish over what she’s losing as she turns to Sidonie for help. Finally, there’s Lea Seydoux in a riveting performance as Sidonie as a young woman who is trying to do whatever to be there for her queen despite the chaos that is around her as she also tries to maintain a brave face for the queen as it’s a very exquisite performance for the young actress.

Les adieux a la reine is a marvelous film from Benoit Jacquot that features amazing performances from Diane Kruger and Lea Seydoux. The film isn’t just an engaging drama about a servant’s loyalty to the Queen of France but also an interesting historical drama that explores the final days of the French monarchy during the French Revolution. In the end, Les adieux a la reine is an extraordinary film from Benoit Jacquot.

Related Films: Marie Antoinette (1936 film) - Marie Antoinette (2006 film)

© thevoid99 2013

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