Directed by Sofia Coppola (daughter of Francis Ford Coppola), Marie Antoinette is the
third film in what she and critics are calling an unlikely thematic trilogy of isolated young
women coming of age in three very different time periods.  Her first film
The Virgin
, based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides also featured Antoinette’s leading lady
Kirsten Dunst in what is arguably her finest performance as one of the Lisbon sisters
struggling with heartache and angst in 1970’s Michigan.  Coppola was so inspired by the
real life “bubbly” personality of Kirsten Dunst that she wrote
Antoinette with her in mind
for the leading role.  Originally
Marie Antoinette was set to follow her first film but she was
overwhelmed by the scope and historical content and wrote a little side story to take her
mind off of it.  The side project that she began became her massive Academy Award
winning hit
Lost in Translation, featuring Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray.  After the
success of
Lost in Translation and winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (along
with becoming the first American woman nominated as Best Director), she received the
access and information needed to work on
Antoinette including special permission to film
in the Palace of Versailles from the French government.  While several books were
consulted, the biography that most inspired Sofia Coppola was the one written by Antonia

The film is a reinvention of the period film featuring some anachronisms in dialogue and
design, including an international cast of mostly Brits and Americans using their own
accents but the most striking deviation from the traditional genre structure was the
musical decision to feature a mostly modern day soundtrack.  The film has been said to be
allegorical of either the current Bush administration or the modern day “rock star” status
of women such as Paris Hilton and it’s interesting since Coppola is the daughter of a
legendary director herself and was thrust into the spotlight at a very young age (appearing
as a baby boy in the famous baptism scene in the first
Godfather film).  In fact, Marie
features numerous children of famous actors and directors, most notably her
cousin Jason Schwartzman (the son of Talia Shire) as Louis XVI.  

(Watch the trailer below from MovieWeb and Sony Pictures)

Although it was loathed by audiences at the Cannes Film Festival, Marie still won the
Cinema Prize of the French National Education System and later an Oscar for its Costume
Design.  Cinematically
Antoinette appears to be inspired by 1980’s romantic New Wave
music, Milos Forman’s
Amadeus, Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, Stephen Frears’s
Dangerous Liaisons and a few moments that seem to be taken right out of Fellini’s La
Dolce Vita
and 8 ½.  Pay special attention to the inventive art direction and the way the
palette of colors and cinematography changes throughout the film as it can be broken
down just by the way it was shot into three different mini-films that emphasize what the
Queen was going through at any given time.  Director of Photography Lance Acord along
with Second Unit Director Roman Coppola (Sofia’s brother) made the decision to shoot it
in an “impressionistic style” as was Coppola’s ambition and use pastel colors instead of the
ones most often seen in paintings of that era.  They purposely stayed away from solid
prints and dark colors in trying to make the work look like living photography that hadn’t
yet faded.  The three periods of the film, along with Dunst’s stellar performance that has
her changing her body language and speech patterns, emphasize what the filmmakers call
the Pink stage, the White stage, and the ultimately the Black stage of the ill-fated young
woman’s life.

(Sources included: Film Intuition Website, IMDb, and the DVD featurette)
Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette
By Jen Johans
Article Only (c) Jen Johans, 2007.
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