Marie Antoinette

I chose to review Sofia Coppola’s 2006 Marie Antoinette. The film received a lot of backlash at the time of its release for not being an all together factual or political representation, with its largely 80’s soundtrack and loose interpretation of the events that took place preceding the French Revolution. Personally, I took the film as more of an artistic take on the Last Queen’s life. Coppola highlights the conflict of the Queen being fourteen, a political figurehead and being forced to navigate her adolescence alone.

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Figure: Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) enjoying the trappings of her lavish lifestyle. Source: Marie Antoinette (2006)

Kirsten Dunst, a fair and delicate contender, was selected for the titular role. She takes on sort of a high school queen bee, distracted from the banalities of her royal life with fashion and palace gossip. Unfortunately for Antoinette, however, there is no female equivalent for “boys will be boys.” Those who know of her untimely demise wait for baited breath throughout the film for her beheading and bloated, gray mob scenes, the results of her lavish spending. Instead, we are met with light and innocent depictions of femininity juxtaposed with subtle, fallen faces that remind us just how lonely it is to be a woman.

 

Figure: Coppola deliberately places a Converse sneaker in the film to symbolize Marie Antoinette’s youth. Source: Marie Antoinette (2006)

Contrastingly, the men in this movie, though few and far between are driving characters in the film. King Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzmann) is essentially your typical high school nerd: quiet, rambling on about his obscure interests when he does bother to talk, and sexually insecure, which results in him being unable to produce a child. As this was the entire reasoning for Marie Antoinette’s coronation to the French court, it renders the French people apprehensive about the regime’s future. The blame is placed immediately on the young Antoinette who is left feeling worthless and inadequate because she cannot convince to Louis to have sex with her. During this time and arguably now, women were simply vessels with which to carry children. Unlike in political depictions of King Louis XVI’s regime, we see a more human side of Marie and her frustration with their unconsummated marriage. It is said from a historical standpoint that the couple’s initial inability to have a child was the beginning of the end for Antoinette’s reputation.

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Figure: Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) just before her breakdown. Source: Marie Antoinette (2006)

Moreover, we are reminded constantly how much we expect out of young women, to compensate for the inadequacies of men, to bear responsibility when they do not have to. Antoinette was a pawn in an existing broken system, and most notably, she was a child. Coppola’s obvious and deliberate awareness of this notion are why we get to see the raw, giggly moments Antoinette experiences as a teenager, and the longing to just be a child.

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Figure: Coppola deliberately places a Converse sneaker in the film to symbolize Marie Antoinette’s youth. Source: Marie Antoinette (2006)

Sofia Coppola brilliantly captured the complexity and what it means to be a teenage girl. Because Sofia herself has experienced being a woman, she can accurately depict a sexually frustrated, burdened, feminine character. When women write women’s stories, we are able to view and relate to female characters as complete humans.

 

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