Farewell, My Queen

Whether you like this film or not,and I did, it is a reminder about why you should be sure to visit Versailles before ending your overseas travels.You can enjoy the magnificent decadence without fear of losing your head.

Farewell, My QueenBeing the Queen of France obviously had many advantages, unless, of course, it happened to coincide with a mass public revolution that admired the guillotine. Farewell, My Queen is a moving historical piece that recreates several days in July, 1789, at Versailles as the Bastille fell and chaos reigned.Put another way, this is not a film where you will hear Marie Antoinette singing Cindi Lauper’s old song, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

It is important to keep in mind that women dominate the screen from beginning to end. Their strengths and weaknesses are on full display, and you will only find a few men who play more than a minor role at any time.

The real difficulty with being the Queen of France in 1789 is that you really weren’t a happy camper, monarch or not. Louis XVI, your husband, has been having one continual affair after another as you are left to make do in the luxurious quarters known as Versailles. As noted, this film deals little with Louis, concentrating entirely on Marie Antoinette and a world that literally goes from bad to very bad.

Diane Kruger, a profoundly underrated actress, plays Queen Marie, a woman who has been clearly robbed of most genuine interest in life. Servants do everything, including opening doors, and she doesn’t even read, instead having a very smart, extremely attractive servant do that for her.

For those of you who need a reminder, Ms. Kruger was the one truly brilliant thing in Troy (2004), where she played Helen. While you should probably avoid her regrettable journey into Nicholas Cage’s world in both National Treasure films (2004 and 2007), just remember her from Tarentino’s Inglorious Basterds (2009) and you will have an idea of her incredible talent.

Her servant who controls the Queen’s library, Sidonie Laborde, is the heart and soul of this provocative film. Played by a devastatingly controlled Lea Seydoux, she is clearly dedicated to her Queen while fully understanding how to work the back halls of the palace.

Forced to flee the post-Bastille deluge by the Queen against her will, she finds herself literally used as bait to cover the identity of the Queen’s female lover, a role she reluctantly accepts. However, this is one smart girl, and you can’t help but believe that she is not going to die for the beautiful yet profoundly conceited lover of the Queen, regardless of the adventure that awaits.

The film, in French with English subtitles, is uniformly graced with a large cast of credible sycophants. It takes you into the heart of the palace as their heretofore untouchable world quickly dissolves. While the movie ends long before either Louis XVI or Marie Antoinette were incarcerated and then beheaded, you can’t help but believe that most of the large number of servants doing the bidding of the royal family were both petrified and slightly intrigued to see their past lives disappear.