Weekend viewing: Marie Antoinette

[Disclaimer for most of my movie watching; I usually watch movies long after they have been released so don’t expect any comments on the current box-office hits. My movie watching is dictated by nothing but a random whim and most often – coincidence. Since I get easily bored with movies I cannot go to the cinema because most of such escapades would end up with me leaving the building or dozing off – I watch movies at home however very rarely from DVDs – as that would require extra effort of going to the DVD rental place and knowing what one wants].

Marie Antoinette – dir. Sofia Coppola 2006

There was a time when I didn’t really like historical movies or novels very much. But a couple years ago, with one visit to Germany it all changed. I became utterly fascinated with the history of Prussia, and especially its Princesses. Sophie Charlotte won my heart from the first look at her portrait in Schloss Charlottenburg and then – with my mind never letting me go past any subject I become interested in just like that – I just had to know everrrytingg I could about these times and these people (most of this research demanded from me to refresh my acquaintance with the Teutonic language, which since then also became a hobby of mine). And because once you start on any bit of European history, you must continue with all the nooks and corners it will take you, I have suddenly found myself an avid reader of all things historical. And from a complete historical ignoramus, a person who’s still confused about history but willing to learn more. Therefore, I don’t avoid historical movies, and when I stumbled upon Marie Antoinette directed by Sophie Coppola I gladly began watching.

On the whole, this movie seemed to me a little bit bland – its characters not really engaging – I see it as a series of images composed to accompany the Wikipedia article on Marie Antoinette for even such a person like me with quite basic knowledge will not find anything interesting historically in this movie. I also did not get emotionally involved in the predicament of the French royalty before the French Revolution – there wasn’t even much of redeeming quality of this movie for the silly, infantile and over-spending image of MA that has been handed down the centuries. The movie does, however, address the infamous phrase ‘Let them eat cake’ – suggesting that MA never said that:

There were things that I liked about the movie, or at leas things that intrigued me. The first such thing was the famous converse scene:

In one of the shots blue converse shoes are visible in the background:


And this is something I really enjoy in arts: a little lack of consistency, something odd thrown in just to shake the viewer out of the stupor of watching the moving image. It is also good when the thing is not just a random item, but somehow deepens or broadens the understanding of the situation of characters on screen. Here I guess we are supposed to gather that MA is a young teenager akin to contemporary ones, or perhaps – since the converse shoes seem to have been cast away in favour of more princess-style shoes we see before – that MA had to give up her childhood/young teenage side in favour of pursuing the Versaille’s ways.

Another thing that intrigued me in this movie was the choice of music. One would expect classical music to form the soundtrack of a historical movie – but here (with some notable exceptions like Vivaldi Concerto Alla rustica) the picture is accompanied by the music by 80s bands such as Siouxie and the Banshees, Joy Division or The Cure. And this pleases me on the one hand – it is, after all, music that I listened to in my teenage years (music I was obsessed with in my teenage years) so it was a nice surprise to listen it to it again. But the context is so curious – nothing about the social context of the post-punk, goth music seems to fit the historical context of the movie about pre-revolutionary France. If not a commentary on social context – then perhaps it is highlighting the emotional landscape of the protagonist – that of decadence, fin-de-siècle sentiments (though I know the use of this term is a-historical) – in other words, life is meaningless, all there is is mindless spending, gambling and partying.