Farewell, My Queen [Blu-Ray] Benoît Jacquot

Farewell, My Queen [Blu-Ray] Benoît Jacquot
9
Depicted as profligate and dissolute in some academic texts, and frivolously superficial, being a substantial instigator of the French Revolution, in others, Marie Antoinette's exact disposition or historical role in the uprising of the National Assembly is debatable. Here, in Benoît Jacquot's adaptation of the Chantal Thomas novel Farewell, My Queen, her political role is vague and secondary to female power dynamics and symbolic signifiers. During the early days of the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger) stays sheltered in her room and is visited primarily by her duchess, Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen), when not being served or read to by servants of varying importance. Agathe-Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) is a servant of moderate significance, given an opulent clock to keep time for her duties to the Queen, determined to make an impression during their visits. In part blinded by social order, certain that underhanded manipulation and alacrity will aid in status improvement, Sidonie views the Queen's seemingly Sapphic relationship with Gabrielle as an opportunity to exploit her passive sexuality as a commodity. But, much like commoners enamoured by royalty, she limits her awareness of personal exploitability, ignorant to the reality of who has the upper hand in a game of mental manipulation. This dynamic is similarly indicative of class system divides and struggles, where any sort of accomplishment or win can very easily have an equal, diametrically opposed benefit in the other court. Jacquot's style is deceptive in its romanticized, objectified stance. He lingers on these women and their heaving cleavage, maintaining a historical male eye, while ensuring that the aesthetics similarly make the mistake of reducing women, with far more complexity and calculation beneath the surface, to the malleable objects they inadvertently mistake each other for. He also uses night and day as a visual and tonal representation of performance of normalcy versus the acknowledgement of disarray. During daylight hours, the Queen worries about needlepoint and fashion magazines, just as the servers discuss trivialities, when not bartering for underlying information about the undermining of the monarchy. At night, everything devolves into chaos. Jacquot's camerawork is more erratic; characters run around incessantly; and violence arises with shocking randomness. It's a further narrative awareness of presentation mirrored by actuality, where the image of perfection, normalcy or beauty is marred by an anarchic and unseemly underbelly of human nastiness. Speaking to the quietly manipulative ways in which women have historically had to manoeuvre themselves, in addition to working as a metaphor for the French Revolution and modern celebrity worship, Farewell, My Queen is a fascinating and intelligent, multi-layered work that grows in depth upon multiple viewings. Unfortunately, the supplemental materials included with the Blu-Ray are thin, featuring mostly background history on getting the film made and an awkwardly pretentious interviewer trying to seem more knowledgeable than he is. (eOne)