Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Farewell, My Queen

Farewell, My Queen is a 2012 French film, directed Benoit Jacquot, on the last few days of the French Monarchy.

Lea Seydoux as Sidonie Laborde

The movie's protagonist is a young Sidonie Laborde, who works as the Queen's reader. On the eve of the French Revolution, the occupants of Versailles continue their daily routines, ignoring the brewing crisis in Paris twelve kilometers away. 

On July 14, 1789, the French people storm the Bastille. As new spreads of this catastrophe, nobles and servants alike begin to flee, stealing whatever they can get their grubby little hands on. Sidonie, a true believer in the French monarchy, refuses to leave the Royal Family. The Queen has Sidonie run many errands in preparations for a flight from the capital. However, Louis XVI refuses to abandon his people.

Vicious rumors are spread about the Queen's relationship with her favorite, the Duchess of Polignac. Marie Antoinette comes to confide in her reader her true feelings regarding Yolande de Polastron. She becomes distraught believing that the Duchess has forsaken her but after a council meeting, the Queen's favorite makes her appearance and the two share an intimate moment together. However, their time to get won't last long as the Queen of France sends the Duchess de Polignac away for her own safety, something that devastates her. She sends her last message to her favorite via Sidonie in the form of a kiss on the lips.

Sidonie is made to disguise herself as the Duchess de Polignac, while the real one pretends to be her maid, so that they can escape to Switzerland. The Duke and Duchess treat Sidonie with disdain, however, she is able to pull off her role admirably when the coach is stopped by an angry mob. Sidonie comments that her position as reader to the Queen defines her and now that that is over, she will fade into nothingness. 

I give this movie 1.5/5. I am not a fan of the directing style of Benoit Jacquot. His films are always so slow paced and this movie was no different. It started off interesting enough and I think it did a really good job of establishing life at Versailles for the servants. However, once the revolution started to pick up steam, the film failed to do so. Then it gets really really slow.The ending was incredibly anti-climatic and any sense of tension is loss within a minute of it arriving.

Lea Seydoux was an extreme let down as the lead. Her character was bland and boring - her key characteristics is that she's in love with the Queen, big whup. She basically squints her way through the movie. The real star of the movie is Diane Kruger who absolutely kills as Marie Antoinette. Many critics have drawn a comparison between Sofia Coppola's film and Jacquot's but, in comparison, to Kirsten Dundst, Kruger is perfect. The one thing I will praise the film for is properly conveying the relationship between Louis and Marie Antoinette. I think this film best captures the couple's interactions with one another. The film does dive into Marie Antoinette's relationship with the Duchess de Polignac (with homosexual undertones) and I think that's one of its finer points as its rather subtle and is not too heavy handed in the propaganda territory.