Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette ★★★★½

The Virgin Suicides will never be dethroned, but this is undoubtedly on-par with Lost in Translation. The production design cannot be matched, recalling all the aesthetically blinding grandeur of Barry Lyndon, but from a revisionist, punk-rock feminist perspective. Anachronisms are anything but mistakes for Sofia, the language, alt-rock music, and Converse trainers only emphasising Marie’s discordance with the high-society that envelopes  her. It reminds me of the stark unorthodoxy in Baz Luhrmann’s polarised take on The Great Gatsby, which I never thought was as unbearable as critics made out (although still a dud next to something like this). 

Roger Ebert summed up my feelings on Marie Antoinette in a few sentences: ‘No one ever lives as Then; it is always Now. Many characters in historical films seem somehow aware that they are living in the past. Marie seems to think she is a teenager living in the present, which of course she is’. This is the greatest articulation of the film to exist, fully encompassing its preoccupation with character over the binary nature of history. There are moments where this goes all-out Malick, the lens trailing behind wandering hands drifting through blades of grass, and various insects taking flight. There’s even an All That Jazz reference, the repetition of Marie’s morning process set to Vivaldi’s ‘Concerto for strings in G major, RV 151’ harking back to Joe Gideon’s infamous shower routine. We should expect nothing less from Francis Ford’s daughter. Her methods might be anything but subtle, but Sofia shows us how life as a teenage girl in the 1700s bears little difference to life in the 2000s. The human experience transcends generations. We get drunk, we conform, we cheat, we make love. Sofia’s run from The Virgin Suicides, to Lost in Translation, to this is one of the best consecutive sprees of any budding filmmaker’s career, making for something of a thematic trilogy that focuses on one binding issue — the female condition. 

To be a woman is to suffer the expectations of society, to fight against oppression and judgment. To be a woman is to be strong. It’s to bear children, to feel things where others can’t, to be alive. Marie Antoinette is one of many films about women that deserves widespread reassessment, but much like the bitter end of the real Antoinette, life is rarely just, morally ethical, or fair.