Friday, March 9, 2007

Reputation of Marie-Antoinette

No, I have not yet seen the Coppola film. My husband has a deal worked out with the local video store which includes unlimited movies, as long as they are ones that have been on the shelves for a while. So I am waiting for the Marie-Antoinette (2006) DVD to be tossed into the discount bin. I am not in any hurry. My friends who have seen it, hated it.

However, there are some reviews I have read by people with an appreciation for history and cinema who thought the film was not without merit. One was my brother Pat, who gave me his review over the phone. Pat really liked the film, with the exception, he said, of the scenes of the love affair with Fersen. He agrees with me that there is not enough proof that Marie-Antoinette slept with Fersen or was even in love with him, and therefore the queen's virtue should be given the benefit of the doubt. There is much more evidence of her high moral standards than there is of any infidelity.

The problem is the picture many people now have of Marie-Antoinette is of her running through Versailles with a glass of champagne in her hand, eating bonbons all day long, and rolling in the bushes with a lover. In reality, she was a teetotaler who ate frugally. She was notorious for her intense modesty and as her friend the Prince de Ligne said, "Her soul was as white as her face." Even some prominent biographers who have insisted upon the possibility of an affair with Fersen in their books have had to admit that there is no solid evidence. Nevertheless, I keep seeing more things on the internet describing Marie-Antoinette as a "bad girl."

Yes, she had a gambling problem when young (I have a future article planned just on her card parties.) She liked to dance the night away, but settled down when the children started to come. Her clothes, yes, were magnificent; volumes could and have been written about Marie-Antoinette's style. She did introduce simpler fashions to France, however.

The slurs upon her reputation which were circulated by the Revolution had little to do with the real woman and queen and everything to do with overthrowing the government. The image of her conjured on the screen by Sofia Coppola has more to do with modern teenage angst than with la reine-martyr. But, I really should not say more until I see the movie. Share


pimprenelle said...

I think it is the problem when you take an historical character, who truly once existed, and that you transform him or her into a script character. Any human life has its subtilties that must be questioned by scholars and historians. For Marie Antoinette, Simone Bertiere or Nesta Webster did so wonderfully. On the other hand, a film needs some ingredients such as glamour, tragedy, love, glory... hate or revenge... Miss Coppola's movie, as many others, presents thus a caricature of Marie Antoinette, meant to meet teenage people's hopes and interests. It's not serious... it's just entertainment...

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Pimprenelle, for your helpful feedback. Last night while I was writing the article, my husband walked in the door with the DVD of the film. So I will probably be watching it this weekend.

Anonymous said...

What ironic timing, Elena! I checked out the movie on Thursday and watched it last night. I stopped by to see if you had ever seen the movie and--viola! What timing!

I could write a whole review on it...and might. But, in brief, I didn't like it. But, yes, it does have some merit.

I didn't like the love scene. Yet the relationship with the king seems to have been considered well.

I loved the scenes at her country retreat (I don't want to embarass myself with the spelling LOL).

I so wish they would have left out the modern day music. ugh! even though I did get into the "I Want Candy!" one. LOL

Pimprenelle is right. Instead of giving young people the history and facts (because young people wouldn't come to watch 'that'), they targeted this movie to the youth of today. It's a "caricature of MA, meant to meet teenage people's hope and interests."

I kept seeing Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Brittney Spears frolicing, partying, shopping on the screen.

The film was a big disappointment for me. :(

Does anyone know of a better one? An oldie but goodie perhaps?

elena maria vidal said...

Hi, Cay, thanks for your opinion. I will probably watch the film tonight or tomorrow and then write a full review. I would recommend the 1938 Norma Shearer version of "Marie-Antoinette." Although it is based on Zweig's biography and has many inaccuracies, Norma really captures the grace and tragedy of the queen. Robert Morley is a bit of a caricature as Louis XVI, but at least it does show the couple growing in affection for each other. In some ways, the Coppola film was just a remake of the 1938 version with rock music, and at least the older version shows the ordeals of the Revolution.

SuzanneG said...

I think the 1938 film is the one we watched in college. I still have these images in my mind 20 years later!
Thanks for your review, Cay...nice to "see" you here, too!

Looking forward to your review, Elena. Now, you both have me curious!

elena maria vidal said...

Hi, Suzanne! Yes, the 1938 film has some images that will haunt your dreams. Especially when they take her son away -- I can't watch that seen anymore.