Film Review: Farewell My Queen

| 31 May , 2013 | Reply

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Directed by: Benoît Jacquot
Screenplay by: Benoît Jacquot and Chantal Thomas
Starring: Léa Seydoux, Diane Kruger, Virginie Ledoyen, Xavier Beauvois and Noémie Lvovsky
Sassi’s Star Rating: 3/5

Based on the novel by Chantal Thomas, Farewell, My Queen is set in the Palace of Versailles. It is 1789 and the eve of the French Revolution. These are dark days for the monarchy and Marie Antoinette’s name is circulating at the top of the revolutionaries’ list of proposed beheadings.

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Benoît Jacquot’s film is told through the eyes of Marie Antoinette’s loyal servant, Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) who has been handpicked by the Queen as her personal reader. In taking this unique viewpoint, Farewell, My Queen is able to follow its main character into all areas of the palace. We see the squalid conditions of the servants as opposed to the opulent lifestyle of the King and Queen, and the effect the storming of the Bastille has on the last days of the French court as chaos ensues.

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Diane Kruger (Troy, Inglourious Basterds) plays a disenchanted and convincing Marie Antoinette. (The actress is a fluent French speaker since she emigrated to France from Germany as a child). Her portrayal offers another version of the controversial Queen; her passion for the Duchess of Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen) forms part of the plot but the main focus is Sidonie’s innocence and devotion to her Queen. Seydoux inhabits her role as Sidonie with a self-contained sensuality, trusting that she will be safe by Marie Antoinette’s side.

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The camera follows Sidonie closely and creates the feeling we are rushing through the dark corridors of the palace with her. This intimacy allows Jacquot to capture the confusion and disbelief experienced by the courtesans and aristocrats as they decide whether of not to flee Versailles.

The film has an unexpected twist that underlies the intended premise of the film. Farewell, My Queen is really about Sidonie’s journey. It’s as though in her servitude she feels that she is part of something meaningful and the question is posed as to whether she will be able to find her identity through any other means.

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The detailed sets, art direction and costumes convey the decadence of the period beautifully and blend together to provide great visual impact. People may also enjoy some basic education about the French Revolution, but the film’s main appeal is in the nature of the relationships explored. It is offered that the Queen may not have been aware of the impact her actions had on other people, an indulgent kind of ignorance befalling her. Kruger is luminous as Marie Antoinette and I think the audience may wish she had more screen time. Seydoux is also a gifted actress and if you are a fan of French cinema, you may find Farewell, My Queen especially appealing.

Farewell My Queen offers a fresh perspective on Marie Antoinette, through the eyes of a trusting and naïve servant. Sometimes loyalty can come at a very high price.

In cinemas June 6th.

Love
Brigitte

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