Decadent and Charming: Marie Antoinette
Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is the story of a very young 14-year old girl (Kristen Dunst) brought to France under the arrangement of marriage to Louis the XVI (Jason Schwartzman). They’re basically two young kids running Daddy’s company; the aristocracy of France, however most of the story focuses on Marie Antoinette’s accession to queen and her prominent, grandiose, idiosyncratic lifestyle in Versailles. It’s a fun movie in a teeny bopper kind of way with the hip music intertwined with the story and at times it feels like you’re watching a music video from the 90s. This is one of the things I enjoy about Sofia Coppola’s style. I mean what better song to play than, “I want candy” by Bow Wow Wow especially when it’s during the decadent montage of shoes, colorful macaroons, sparkling champagne, and voguish wigs. Can we talk about the wigs for a second? It’s a freaking work of art and if anyone can wear one of those things without it sliding off their head is a superhero.
At first when watching this film, I was skeptical because I really didn’t know what to expect and thought it was going to be one of those prim and proper period pieces where actors over act in not so great accents. I was wrong, this was a fun fantasy of wearing exquisite costumes with very little dialogue and basically a case of letting the visual speak for itself. AND, in digging deeper into what Coppola’s actually bringing to the screen, I thought this is just a story about a girl living in a strange society and adapting to it but in a very impressionistic way. Take Pretty Woman for example, it’s about a prostitute going about her life, then meets a wealthy man, falls in love, tries to adapt to his world, but ultimately in an unconventional way still remains true to who she is. Maybe it’s a stretch of an example but, I feel like Marie Antoinette is kind of like that. She’s staying true to who she wants to be aside from her posh setup. And of course all of this controversy arises and it paints her in a very negative light but that usually occurs when someone has power and money oh and the keys to the kingdom. So, she spends of all France’s money and she has a gambling problem. People have problems people!
And, everyone knows the fate of Marie Antoinette, and yet Coppola refrains from giving us a beheading scene. Interesting choice. She also refrains from showing the audience any of the violence or act of committing suicide from The Virgin Suicides. But, again I believe that’s her personal choice not to glorify violence. She alludes to it though, especially in the scene where Marie maneuvers her way to the balcony among the pissed off French citizens who’re ready to capture and torture her with their torches and pitchforks. It’s such a great scene as the queen stands among them and does nothing but stare at them because she knows there’s nothing she can really do. She has no real interest in being queen or helping people. The woman bathes in elegance not politics. So she bows out gracefully knowing this is not going to end well for her.
What’s so dreamy about Coppola’s aesthetic is her use of pale colors, and natural lighting that illuminate each scene in a haze like fashion. It’s like getting lost in an extraordinary void or like gazing and being drawn into a soft, glossy watercolor painting. Her very distinguished style is enchanting and fascinating because she often focuses her subject matter on a character’s loneliness and she presents it through numerous shots of the character standing alone in long hallways, or daydreaming in a meadow while gazing at the sky. There’s such a vivid and profound imagination at play circling a fashionable historical figure and Coppola heightens that with such a wonderful finesse.