Sofia Coppola’s body of work has always remained intriguing even when she isn’t exactly the most consistent filmmaker. It’s hard enough to imagine how she can follow up a film as beautiful as Lost in Translation but there was always the certain fear that after having directed her best film she would turn out another effort that proves itself hugely underwhelming and with Marie Antoinette comes the film that consensus has agreed upon as their worst effort to date but I also think it also makes a great case as to why her work is so intriguing. Given what would be expected of a period piece, especially one about the ill-fated Queen of France, it seems only fitting that Sofia Coppola took this outline and directed a film that details her life the way that one would only be able to imagine it must have been from her very own eyes, rather than one that sticks to tradition.
In this unconventional historical biopic, Kirsten Dunst stars as the ill-fated Queen, having only recently been married to Louis XIV. Dunst, having collaborated with Coppola previously on The Virgin Suicides and then known for her role as Mary Jane Watson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, proves herself to be the perfect embodiment of Marie Antoinette herself for a number of reasons. This isn’t a period piece that wanted to keep its appeal limited to those who would watch over from the Oscars after Lost in Translation was a visible favourite of there, but one that stretched the appeal to younger audiences by showing Marie Antoinette as a more relatable personality. And for what it’s worth, Kirsten Dunst is immensely likeable and the whole cast surrounding her is just all-around fantastic.
Among the more unorthodox decisions being made in Coppola’s portrait of Marie Antoinette come forth with the anachronistic music choices that go from opening with Gang of Four and including New Order and The Cure. Of course, it’s hard not to like a soundtrack that includes such fantastic music but the question to be asked is why would Sofia Coppola have gone with such a choice to tell the story of Marie Antoinette? It was only fitting because it gives the audience the idea that she has been living a life of glamour, and the soundtrack aids the emphasis that Coppola is placing on her own lifestyle. In the oddest sense, it manages to fit the story’s own setting because the selected tracks manage to ring a perfect mood for the scene, going from “Age of Consent” to “Plainsong.”
For as beautiful as the whole film looks, I think what’s worth asking though is what can we make of Marie Antoinette as a result. It’s certainly an overwhelming lifestyle to get oneself caught within, because Sofia Coppola’s films tend to revolve around alienation as a result of circumstance, but I feel somewhat empty looking at how Marie Antoinette herself turned out to be. It was already intriguing enough on her own end to have shown Marie Antoinette to be the way that she is, but I can’t help but feel as if looking at her growth somewhat seemed inconclusive. It’s clear that even Sofia Coppola herself is overwhelmed with what she has to work with, but maybe there was a point it became too much for her own self.
Nevertheless, it’s enjoyable just to see where Marie Antoinette goes because it isn’t the same period piece that you would expect yourself to be in store for. Coppola’s choice to tell the story of Marie Antoinette is one that happens to stay along the lines of what she created in The Virgin Suicides set within the background of a period film and it already makes a fascinating final result. In a sense this was the perfect way to follow up Lost in Translation because you can only get the idea that Sofia Coppola was looking to experiment more from there, and what she makes of the story of Marie Antoinette is something that I wish more period films could manage to embrace nowadays. Beyond looking pretty, it’s a film that makes you feel as if you’re there with Marie Antoinette.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Sony.
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Screenplay by Sofia Coppola, from Marie Antoinette: Her Journey by Antonia Fraser
Produced by Sofia Coppola, Ross Katz, Francis Ford Coppola
Starring Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis,Rip Torn, Asia Argento, Rose Byrne, Molly Shannon, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston, Steve Coogan
Release Year: 2006
Running Time: 123 minutes