Les Adieux à la reine

(Farewell, My Queen)

English poster for Farewell My Queen (Les Adieux à la reine) Other films about Marie Antoinette have had their moments, but Benoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen is the first to give a real sense of what it must have felt like to live inside that palace as the walls were caving in.

Here are eight good reasons to see this movie:

  1. The ideal casting of Diane Kruger: Marie Antoinette was Austrian; Kruger is German. Kruger is fluent in French and has had an extensive career in French films, but surrounded by French people, she looks like a foreigner. And, in this context, that makes her seem vulnerable before she even says a word. She also can turn on a dime between down-to-earth and imperious. Her high spirits are infectious; her desperation and despair, bottomless.
     
  2. The point of view: The story, which takes place over three days in 1789, is seen through the eyes of  Sidonie, the queen’s reader. This up-close but outside perspective gives us a good idea of who the queen was and how the monarchy functioned. Too close and we might mistake Marie Antoinette for someone like ourselves. But it’s in the ways that queens are different that they are interesting.
     
  3. The eyes of Léa Seydoux: There is a saying that a cat can look at a king. That’s how Seydoux, who plays Sidonie, looks at the queen. It’s a look of devotion but also observation, the look of someone who sees and understands everything, yet says almost nothing. Seydoux is considered one of the best young actresses in France. To see this is to know why.
     
  4. The opulence and squalor: In Versailles, everything shines, and yet, as depicted by Jacquot, the dirt and squalor of 18th century life always find a way to get inside.  So the world inside the court, just visually, seems fragile to the world outside it – before anything happens.
     
  5. Access is power: One comes away with an understanding of the power dynamic within the royal court. The closer you are to one of the monarchs – even if you’re a 20-year-old who reads to the queen – the more you are perceived as powerful. Anyone who knows anything about the dynamics of stardom, as does Jacquot, knows exactly how this works.
     
  6. Like 9/11:Jacquot doesn’t show the storming of the Bastille. He shows people finding out about it, and their reactions will remind many of post-9/11 feelings: panic, fear and the sense of living in a transformed universe. In Versailles, everyone depends on a power structure that has just crashed into an iceberg.
     
  7. The Duchesse de Polignac: Virginie Ledoyen plays the queen’s favourite, possibly her lover, and brings to the role a poise, a noble hauteur and a quality that’s arresting and never completely knowable. For Ledoyen, it’s a return to form, one of her most charismatic performances.
     
  8. An unsettling truth: In showing the toppling and certain doom of the monarchy, the movie is a comment on the fragility of all human institutions, even ones that seem monolithic and permanent. If it’s human, it’s going to go sooner or later – and might even blow up in a second. Something about that strikes a powerful chord.

Finally, here are the reasons not to see Farewell, My Queen: There are none, or at least no good ones.

– Mick La Salle, The San Francisco Chronicle


On ne dira jamais assez l’importance d’une première phrase. Ou des premières images d’un film. C’est le moment où les portes s’ouvrent. Où chacun quitte son monde pour aller voir ailleurs. C’est un moment fugace qui tient sur un fil. Tout peut rapidement basculer. Dans l’énervement ou la félicité.

Les Adieux à la reineJ’aurais ainsi pu écrire que Les Adieux à la reine, de Benoît Jacquot, est le plus beau film français de l’année ; et je parie qu’il va le rester longtemps. Clair, net, merci, au revoir. Mais aussi que Les Adieux à la reine commence, lui, sur un ton déstabilisant. 14 juillet 1789, une jeune femme se lève, se gratte le bras, caméra portée, ellipse sèche, cour de Versailles, ample mouvement de caméra, retour à la jeune femme, gros plan, coup de zoom... Une ouverture éparpillée et irritante. Adapté du roman de Chantal Thomas, le film chronique les quelques jours qui suivent la prise de la Bastille, vus par Sidonie, lectrice de Marie-Antoinette, alors qu’à Versailles les uns paniquent, les autres tempèrent, tous s’interrogent. Et cette mise en scène qui m’irritait s’est vite muée en un ensemble incroyablement cohérent, où la fulgurance des plans le dispute à l’audace des partis pris. Jacquot décrit un monde flottant comme le ferait un peintre. Une esquisse, un coup de pinceau, une tache de couleur étalée au couteau.

Le film est passionnant parce qu’il saisit le mouvement de l’Histoire en lui collant aux chausses sans faire de lyrisme pompeux. Le film est moderne parce qu’il croque un pouvoir oublieux du peuple qui joue à un jeu qui n’intéresse que lui. Le film est magnifique parce qu’il est habité par des personnages qui révèlent une humanité faite, ici, de lâcheté, là, d’inconscience, ailleurs, de dévouement gracieux. Le film est touchant parce que tous les comédiens (Seydoux, Kruger, Ledoyen, Beauvois...) y sont à leur juste place. Une merveille, je vous dis.

– Eric Libiot, L’Express

 

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