sábado, 28 de abril de 2007

Writings and translations: Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette is the latest Sofie Coppola’s film. It explains the life of Marie Antoinette in the French Court from her meeting with Louis XVI, the French Dauphin and the future king of France, at the age of fourteen, to her expulsion from the Versailles Palace thirteen years later, in 1789, when the French Revolution began. Those were turbulent times in France. But actually the film isn’t interested in historical facts. Or, at least, facts and their explanations are not the main subject of the film. As in her previous film, Lost in translation, Sofie Coppola is more interested in the feelings of the main character (Marie Antoinette in this film and the character played by Scarlett Johansson in the previous one) than in the setting in which she lives.

They were hard times for someone that had to live in a place like the Royal French Court at Versailles. The Monarchy’s way of life was approaching its end, and the ostentation of the Court and the aristocracy were more and more obsolete; hunger and poverty consumed the people of France and, in general, the people all around Europe Food was too expensive and, the worst thing of all, there was no work. In this hard social context the Austrian Marie Antoinette, daughter of Maria Teresa, Queen of Austria, came to France to marry with Louis XVI, the heir to the French throne. This was a marriage of convenience, of course, and of a high political importance since by it the Court of France and the Court of Austria would come together and with greater power than before. In this marriage increasing power of the two Royal Crowns was more important than the feelings of the couple.

However, the feelings of the couple, as I have said before, are the subject of Sofie Coppola’s film. The film is focused on the relationship of the teenager Marie Antoinette to the French Court, a Court that with the pass age of time is more and more decadent and more and more washed-up. In the film she is an adolescent who suddenly finds herself in a strange world of pomp that is difficult to understand; in a crepuscular world to which she doesn’t belong, but in which she has to survive. Through this conflict, between the social impositions she experiences and her search for herself, she begins to build a personal world in which she lives out her childish fantasies, and where these fantasies are more important to her than reality. In the world she has constructed on this way, usually a sad world, but sometimes a funny one, the aristocracy also lives. But this is not the ancient aristocracy accustomed to the old traditions, but a new one - an aristocracy chosen by Marie Antoinette amongst the inhabitants of Versailles who are closest to her. They ignore all the usual formalities and those done things that until that moment had been unquestionable in the Court. In this way, she builds a Court, the last one before the French Revolution and the fall of the Monarchy, in her own image.

As in her previous film, and from the former one, Sofie makes use of a soundtrack of pop and rock songs from the eighties in order to create a certain atmosphere regardless of whether it’s appropriate to the setting of the film. In the soundtrack she looks for a mood rather to supply incidental music. And since these films are more about feelings than events, perhaps we find in these songs all that Sofie wants to say to us

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