Mark Metcalf
Moving Pictures

“Farewell, My Queen”

Mark Metcalf compares the new film, "Farewell, My Queen" to the British television series "Downton Abbey." The film opens tonight at the Oriental Theatre.

By - Sep 7th, 2012 04:00 am
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Farewell, My Queen stars Lea Seydoux and Diane Kruger. It was directed by Benoit Jacquot. It’s Downton Abbey, only French, set in Versailles during the early days of the French Revolution, which raises the stakes considerably for the people who live upstairs. Seydoux plays the Queen’s favorite “reader.” Queens had people to read to them. Marie Antoinette could read herself but she liked to have someone else do the reading. I think she just wants someone to hang out with. And manipulate. Kruger plays the Queen.

The strongest feeling communicated by this film is the isolation of the court. Almost the entire film is set inside the walls of Versailles; in the hallways and the servant’s quarters, and the anterooms of some of the aristocratic familiesliving inside the safe zone of the King and Queen. We hear gossip about the revolution in the City of Paris. The King ventures into the City to speak with and, presumably, listen to the people demanding change. But we don’t go with him. We stay inside and only hear snippets of the story later. We also hear the gossip about who is sleeping with whom.

Because they are limited to two hours instead of several seasons, the filmmakers are not able to develop character as richly as they do in Downton Abbey–except in the case of Kruger. She manages to bring more nuance to the Queen than just attractively filling out the lush costumes, which would have been easy. So much emphasis is put on ambiance rather than what could have been an interesting story about the dependency of the upper classes on their servants when the masters are about to lose their literal heads and the loyalty of the people downstairs, the servants, is lost.

Farewell, My Queen opens at the Oriental Theatre on Friday, Sept. 7.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Movies

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