Sunday, March 8, 2015

Marie Antoinette ★★★1/2

Image result for Marie Antoinette movie stills

    "Marie Antoinette" is an exquisite film if for no other reason than its elegant visual style, which captures the sublimity of the Romantic era of France in all of its conniving splendor. Sofia Coppola's chronicling of the egocentric queen is not only proof of her innate talent as a director (it is quite clear that the Coppola bloodline is infused with boundless ingenuity), but it displays her maturity in executing the art itself, which can be ascertained scene after scene. 

    Of course, it would be relatively impossible to indulge in every instance where the picture's beauty becomes prominent simply because it ruthlessly permeates each frame in such a manner that brings the phrase "feast for the senses" into relevance. From delectable treats to wardrobe and make-up, it is evident that the production design team worked flawlessly to resurrect this setting in its pristine glory, down to the minute detail. 

    However, the decision to utilize rough grain film stock was obviously the most critical determination of the visual blueprint, as the grainy texture (which can be comparable to an eye-sore if not performed with care) accentuates the story masterfully. One of the most difficult aspects of creating a period piece is the ability to recreate an atmosphere so that the audience's imagination does not have to; I was so enthralled at times that I thought to leave this place would truly be a sin.  

    Yet, as captivating as the picture may be visually, it is the direction that propels the story to success. Coppola's presence behind the camera can be felt throughout, as every cinematic point of view is used to its maximum potential. We journey with young Marie in a very intimate fashion early on as the subjective viewpoint is utilized to show events exactly as they were seen by the young queen; the audience becomes nothing short of a direct participant in the action while Marie takes her first steps into this foreign realm of wealth and power. This choice of presentation is undoubtedly brilliant and only alludes to Coppola's growth as a filmmaker. (There are also numerous shots of Malick-esque proportions, as slow and methodical scenes of nature are presented to us in their truest form--untouched.)

    To say that the film provides an abundance of symbolism would be more of an insult than anything, as it is not only provided but littered in every crevice of live screen and employed in every imaginable technique to date. Repetition is used to give depth to several concepts, including letters from Marie's homeland of Austria and gossip that can be overheard in every segment of dialogue. (The former symbolizing her conflicts and the latter symbolizing the pressures and nuisances accompanied with royalty.) 

Image result for marie antoinette film stills

    Visual metaphors are crafted in the most subtle of ways and define numerous ideas such as the royal couple's inability to consummate and romanticized daydreams of Marie herself, as she inevitably partakes in infidelity. Single shot motifs are used to convey several notions, most notably that of vulnerability, which is best encapsulated by a scene in which Marie helplessly stands naked during her first-morning routine.     

    In spite of the bombardment of captivating styles and textures, however, it occurred to me that as well as the film divulges into the finer memories of Marie Antoinette's iconic lifestyle, it does not express the conflict adequately enough to bring this sphere of life into complete coherence. This is surely not to say that complications do not exist, as the pressure to adapt and to fulfill temporal roles would seem daunting enough, yet once they are provided, it becomes more of a distraction and hindrance than an added element to her character.

    Quite frankly, it places our resident actress, Kirsten Dunst, in an unflattering constraint, as scenes that direly warrant a depth of emotion become forced and unnatural; the latter being a reversal of the quality that Dunst undoubtedly expressed with pride earlier in the picture. Case in point: When Marie is told of news from home that would seem heartbreaking, Dunst is at a loss for conviction and her reaction shot fails to express the needed emotions convincingly.

    Nevertheless, the most startling facet of the film can only be the dramatic irony that is at play behind the scenes. If you are familiar with the history that accompanies this characterization, then you surely know what this is in reference to. The simple fact that we become empathetic towards a persona who certainly does not deserve it is a testament to the picture's aims. It humanizes a character in an attempt to evoke sympathy from its audience and it succeeds invariably.                 

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