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Marie Antionette  

Review: written June 2007

It’s a movie about a teenager – who happened to be the Queen

It's not perfect, but it's a much better piece of cinema than its critics would have you believe. In fact, what is created here is a deliciously personal movie about a historical figure - made not as an epic, but as an intimate and `in-the-moment' portrayal of a teenager in over her head.

It's the first key to liking this movie - it is a teen-movie. Not for them, but about one. As such, all we are seeing is how Marie Antoinette must have seen her life. A young teenager put into a political arranged marriage as the Dauphine of France, she has to leave all behind and finds herself in an intolerable situation (an unconsummated marriage - for 7 years!) with no frame of reference. That's the second key to liking it - it is about her removal from a sense of reality - Versaille is geographically, politically, socially and economically isolated from the reality of France, until the tragic end. (a tragic end which the movie stops just before, incidentally).

This lack of a reality touchstone sends the teenager into spirals of excess - and yet Kirsten Dunst finds new depths in portraying her as indulgent, and yet sincere. Petulant yet patient and revelling in luxury, yet loyal regardless of cost. The movie itself has been criticised for having discordant elements - modern (and 80's) music, hand held camera movements, brighter than bright colours - and yet this is highly effective at making this story have an immediate feel, and not a historical document - exactly what Sofia Coppola was trying to achieve. One scene which exemplifies this, is the masked ball - an occasion which should in most period movies would be starchy and elegant - but here is almost like a night club or a rave with pounding soundtrack - and this must surely be precisely the excitement and impression this occasion would have engendered in a spoilt and privileged teenager.

Finally, the other ingredients (an apt turn of phrase since everything looks like candy) that complete the feel of the movie - the set design and the music. The film was given complete access to Versaille, which makes the location vivid and real - and yet in set design the filmmakers have made these places not a museum, but a real vibrant place home to many. And of course all the wonderful bright and pastel shades made so that `everything looks like cake' are terrific to watch. And then the music - apart from the occasional pop song as mentioned before, the music actually evokes various moods - from the lyrical simplicity of rural France, to melancholy similar in tone to the soundtrack of Lost in Translation, through to modern beats - it's a brilliant and imaginative score.

Top marks to Coppola - I preferred this even to Lost in Translation. It certainly won't be to everyone’s taste and best rented than bought - but it is a uniquely personal movie deserving a viewing so you can make up your own mind.

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