Stephanie and I went to see Marie Antoinette last night. I was seriously impressed.
First off, I have to admit that I wanted to hate Sofia Coppola when The Virgin Suicides came out. I wanted to hate her because I figured she was daddy's little director and that's how she got her in. But the thing is, she's a great writer and director, and I love all three of her feature films. Lost in Translation may in fact be one of my favorites of all time.
Marie Antoinette, as I've come to find out, is based on a more modern biography of the queen, and focuses only on her time in Versailles, from age 14 to the raid in Versailles. It also seems like a more fair representation of who she really was: A teenager thrown into a monarchy she had no interest in. The film portrays her as a good mother who grows out of the excess of her position. According to most historical references on the Internet, it would appear that the hate many of the French had for her was completely unjustified, and the revolution was a bloody and uncivilized process. Most historians apparently feel she never said, "Let them eat cake."
Kirsten Dunst impresses me with every new movie she's in. She'll do the big blockbusters like Spider Man, and still do movies like this one or even Eternal Sunshine in a supporting role. I guess I like her so much because she does all of the movies that I want to see!
Coppola's treatment of the film is interesting to me because she has a period film that doesn't feel like a period film. Yes, the costumes are amazing, the real French locales still feel 18th Century, but she chose not to get into forced accents or fill the soundtrack with constant classical music. I think it took some balls, in fact, to use something like "Candy" in the soundtrack. She makes decisions that you would make if you were suddenly dropped in that time and had to go with what you knew, and that makes it infinitely more interesting.
It's a very tragic story, but she chooses to end it with the royal couple leaving Versailles for the last time, Marie maintaining her composure to do what she has to going forward.
This story, as with Suicides and Translation, whether intentional or not, deal heavily in the realm of fate and destiny. The characters in all of these movies seem doomed to live (or die) in an existence they either didn't ask for, or don't want. Ultimately, they do make choices and do things on their own terms. The girls chose to break out of their lives permanently, Bob chooses to stop being miserable in his life, and Marie chooses to accept her role as the strength of her persecuted family.
Maybe that's why people identify with these movies. Everyone has a period, or periods in their life where they feel stuck and trapped and miserable. Isn't it weird how you can know you're not happy, know you're miserable, and not break out of the cycle? We do it with jobs and relationships all of the time. If someone stands there poking us, we know it's unpleasant so we move. So why is it so fucking hard to get out of unpleasant situations in our lives? What do we really stand to lose by leaving these situations behind? Is the fear of pain, loneliness and regret (all temporary) more powerful than the prospect of feeling liberated and happy? Sadly, I think it is a lot of the time.
Ah, the joys of cinema. :) The good movies always challenge you to think about stuff.