Opulent, majestic, creative and revealing Farewell, My Queen delivers a nicely directed piece of historic French lore. The movie features outstanding performances by Lea Seydoux and Diane Kruger and brilliantly captures the fervor and wickedness surrounding the days before the French Revolution in 1789. Filming, sets and costumes are exceptional creating an atmosphere that charms yet appalls.
The story takes place just prior to major outbreaks of the French Revolution with the aristocracy being blamed for the lack of staples most evident, bread. With constant outbursts by the commoners, signs calling for the abdication of the throne of King Louis the XVI and spies infiltrating the castle, the signs are showing for impending doom. In the middle of the chaos we see Queen Marie Antoinette (Kruger) finding herself being admonished by an unforgiving people who are being lead into a life of abject poverty.
During this tumultuous time her personal reader and lady-in-waiting Sidonie Laborde (Seydoux) has stayed by the queen’s side giving her comfort. But, things are happening fast and the Queen’s best friend and suspected lover Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen) has been added to the list of the people to be executed for her wealth. During an emotional scene, the Queen asks Sidonie to perform a special favor involving Gabrielle that could lead to her book reader’s death.
The tale vacillates between poignant and corruption as the King and his Court decide the fate of everyone around them. I like the way director Benoît Jacquot uses the dark dank castle to carry out his play. The cold walls and dingy rooms of the servants clash with the luxurious Queen’s chambers and the King’s throne room giving the feel of the greedy rich showing disdain for their servers, personal attendants and citizens. Jacquot spools out his story slowly giving his audience a chance to feel the hatred and confusion growing into what will become the bloodiest rebellion of that era.
Seydoux gives a striking performance as the lady who loves her queen so much that she will offer her life at Antoinette’s command. She’s the thread that weaves throughout the film connecting the characters and showing their slow downfall into an abyss of no return. Through her eyes we see the wicked, unfaithful and avaricious as well as the loyal, hardworking members of the royal court.
A passionate performance by Diane Kruger as the faithful queen on a path that will lead to her horrific demise provides admiration, lust, sorrow and then anger for her unwitting fall from power. Director Jacquot uses her talent well drawing attention to Kruger’s many faces of Marie Antoinette.
The costumes, sets and cinematography bring you into an era of toil versus power while poverty attempts to conquer greed. The servants garb, while tidy show wear and tear, the kings officers are spit and polished, the Queen wears impressive gowns and the king sports upscale togs of the time. The people are wearing drab attire that barely holds the warmth during this period of damp and dreary days. Camera angles catch the close-ups of the beleaguered servants as they move through the clammy stone walled castle halls and whisper their gossip to each other.
Farewell, My Queen has been rated R by the MPAA for brief graphic nudity and language. The film is presented in French with English subtitles.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A poignant film with an amazing cast. ★★★★★★
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