Film Review: 'Farewell, My Queen'

 

Film Review: 'Farewell, My Queen'

 

Date: August 23, 2012
by: Paula Atwell | Theater Critic

 
 

The party's over for Marie Antoinette in the new film, "Farewell, My Queen." Heads are about to roll as the film opens to the date of July 14, 1789, the day the Bastille fell. And even if you don't care a lick about the French Revolution, you'll find it difficult not to be totally engrossed in the goings-on behind closed doors at The Palace of Versailles.

The film is seen entirely through the eyes of Sidonie (Lea Seydoux), the official reader to Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger). It seems royalty can't even do their own reading but Sidonie worships her queen just the same. The morning of July 14, Sidonie is summoned to the queen's chambers as Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen) slinks out into the corridor. What starts out as a typical morning evolves into chaos as news spreads about the horrors taking place in Paris.

A hit list is circulating amongst the residents of Versailles with 286 names on it. Those to be guillotined begin making escape plans, including Marie Antoinette whose name is at the top. But in a surprising and brave move, Louis XVI (Xavier Beauvois) decides to return to Paris alone and face the music. Marie Antoinette secretly reveals her undying love for Gabrielle to Sidonie and orders her to risk her life for that of her paramour.

"Farewell, My Queen" is as lavish to look at as it is to experience. Director Benoit Jacquot was allowed the unusual privilege of filming at Versailles and the results are exquisite. Too see and be where it all went down, lends an exciting historical perspective. He further adds an air of familiarity by employing the use of a hand-held camera which works brilliantly.

Jacquot, famous for showcasing France's most talented actresses, has scored a resounding coup casting "Farewell, My Queen." The charismatic Kruger (who was amazing in "Inglourious Basterds") is captivating as the moody Marie Antoinette, suggesting, perhaps, a bi-polarity issue with her highness. And Seydoux ("Midnight in Paris") is subtlety radiant as the servant who is enamored by her beloved queen. Their scenes together lend vast insight into the film's political message.

A piece of advice when viewing "Farewell, My Queen"… unless you're a student of French history, pay close attention to the character's names. Knowing who's who will greatly enhance the pleasure of having seen this magnificent film.

 

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