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In July 1789, the French Revolution is rumbling. Far from the turmoil, at the Château de Versailles, King Louis XVI, Queen Marie-Antoinette and their courtiers keep on living their usual carefree lives. But when the news of the storming of the Bastille reaches them, panic sets in and most of the aristocrats and their servants desert the sinking ship, leaving the Royal Family practically alone. Which is not the case of Sidonie Laborde, the Queen's reader, a young woman, entirely devoted to her mistress; she will not give her up under any circumstances. What Sidonie does not know yet is that these are the last three days she will spend in the company of her beloved Queen... Written by
On several occasions when soldiers are marching through the main and side gates of Versailles, and also when Sidonie goes to Le Petite Trianon for the first time and falls into a puddle, you can clearly see the very 21st century anti-terrorism concrete security barriers and bollards flanking the gates. See more »
I must admit, when I went to see this film I thought: Not another picture about the revolution in France, I must have seen 20 already. I was pleased to find however that Benoit Jacquot has given the period a lot of thought, and has made one of the more effective costume films in recent years. His Sade of 2000 starred Daniel Auteuil and Isild le Besco, treating one of the lesser figures of the period with great insight into his character. Les adieux a la reine is no less engrossing; he takes us into the cramped corridors of the palace, where the small people live in dingy quarters and hope (usually fruitlessly) to be noticed by the royal couple. The night scene with the courtiers fearfully scanning the list of 286 notables who must have their heads chopped off, lit with a brackish yellow candle light is wonderfully effective.
The performances make the film. Diane Kruger, with her slight accent, makes a wonderful Marie Antoinette: sensing doom, yet still able to reach out to those around her. It's easy to see why Sidonie reveres her. Lea Seydoux, whom I hadn't noticed much up to now, shows much promise as an actress, scurrying around the palace trying to gather information about the riots in Paris. Her face is sometimes sullen, sometimes smiling, always interesting. Xavier Beauvois does well as the King. Finally Virginie Ledoyen as Yolande de Polignac--"the indisputably ravishing but dim-witted Yolande" as Simon Schama calls her. Ledoyen is as imperious and shallow as you could wish. You see how the Queen could lose her head (in both senses) over her.
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