Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Farewell, My Queen

Sunday afternoon, September 16th, we went to the Oriental Theatre to see the movie, "Farewell. My Queen" ("Les Adieux a la Reine"). This movie, set in the early days of the French Revolution, gives a rarely seen perspective on the events, that of the regime's loyal followers and servants—gentry privileged to serve the Queen closely, but not the great nobility, nor the commoners. The viewpoint character, Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) is a well-born orphan who is "the servant of the Queen's books" or the Queen's reader, whose main task is to read aloud to Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger) when she desires that sort of amusement. Although essentially a lady-in-waiting, Sidonie is subordinate to the older ladies with grander jobs, and lives in a room in the dingy and neglected backstairs of Versailles, only distinguishable from the commoner servants in that she has a room to herself.

We also see that Sidonie has a serious crush on the beautiful Queen, who, herself, has an apparently homoerotic fixation on the Duchess de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen).

The movie begins the morning after the storming of the Bastille, and it is interesting to see how the news percolates into the insular worlds of the royal enclave, where news and gossip are sought after and the stuff with which favors are purchased. Sidonie and her class are not privy to the great decisions of state, but can only try to ride with the emotional upheavals of rumor and the physical upheavals of the royal family's indecision as to whether or not to leave Versailles, and if so, to where.

This is a rather low-keyed film, since it ends before "The Terror" and the Queen's death, but concentrates more on the day-to-day life of the denizens of Versailles, which is fascinating. We see at night the vast State Rooms empty and dark, while the servant's quarters are a busy thoroughfare teeming with both the noble and the common, some seeking reassurance, and some seeking the titillation of uncertainty.

The film is handsomely mounted if somewhat subdued, which seems more realistic than the costume spectaculars that movies of this period frequently turn into. We see much more of the Queen's bedroom and the backstairs than the ballroom, and much more of the Queen en dishabille than in her grand gowns, and of these, the one we see most of is more casual than the elaborate affairs usually portrayed. From a costume aspect, the outfits worn by Sidonie and the other waiting women are most interesting.

A very interesting portrayal of a familiar time from an unfamiliar viewpoint. In French, with English subtitles. Some nudity, no bad language, and, surprisingly, no violence since all that takes place off camera out of the characters' view.

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Tags: historical, movies
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