Photo by Eve Lucas
At the press conference after the Berlinale’s opening film screening, Diane Kruger says she can’t remember being so nervous about a film. She didn’t sleep well, she says, although you wouldn’t think so to look at her. Classily regal, and perfectly in tune with the film that’s opened this year’s Berlinale: Adieux à la reine, a film that monitors the last four days that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (Kruger) spent at Versailles, seen (fictitiously) through the eyes of the Queen’s reader, Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux).
Offsetting Kruger’s initially languid and then increasingly frantic Queen with a fresh faced, although occasionally rather pouty Sidonie, director Jacquot lingers over the intro, establishing hierarchies and dependencies, before picking up pace and seguing into political and emotional chaos. The film’s main weakness is that of its main protagonists – not the brightest bulbs (or should one say candles) in the chandelier – but not that of the actors playing them, all of whom agitate convincingly within an ably constructed set of private and public positions.
This is not a vehicle for a fluffy-headed Marie Antoinette à la Coppola. The drama is period but in a way that shows people inhabiting their accepted roles: costume is a metaphor for custom, a necessary part of the scenery.
Unhappily, the questions at the press conference don’t do justice to movie. Does the film reflect on revolutions, like those of the Arab spring? Ummm, I’m guessing not, bearing in mind that the script had probably been completed somewhat earlier in the day. And frankly, the press conference moderator needs to work on his French. Nobody is saying goodbye to their kidneys (reins). Just their heads. But that’s another story.