Another View of Marie Antoinette

Brian Overland had the following feedback on our review of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette:

Your reactions seem to me more or less on target. But I would add the observation that Sofia Coppola’s choice of material is not by chance. Rather, I suspect that she chose it as symbolic of her own life. Essentially, she is saying, “This is what it feels like to grow up among the rich and famous.” This also explains the reason for the contemporary sound-track… by setting this bio-pic of pre-revolutionary France to the sound of music of her own generation, Coppola attempts to make it more personal and more relevant to her own point of view.

To that extent, it makes quite a point. I recall the brilliant film The Last Emperor. It likewise said that growing up as the king or queen of the world is not an unending series of ecstatically happy moments, which a naive point of view might assume. Growing up rich and powerful is not what Buddhists expect Nirvana to be, not by a long shot. (By the way, this is off point, but the life of Jesus was not an uninterrupted series of perfectly happy moments either—at least his ministry was not—who knows about his earlier life.)

Maybe the point of Marie’s naturalist phase was (apart from the fact it happened) to further remind us that at heart, she was a real flesh-and-blood person, just one who was mostly living in a bizarre setting. Likewise, celebrated humans are just as flesh-and-blood as are us all, even those who grow up with the last name Coppola, Presley, Fonda, Barrymore, Kennedy, Rockefeller, or Bush.

(BTW, there is a very funny line in that vein in the film The King of Comedy. Referring to his idol Jerry Lewis, Rupert Pupkin declares, “Jerry is just as human as the rest of us… maybe even more so!”)

Super-rich and famous people may look like gods from the outside. And indeed the world they live in poses strange requirements on them that make it hard for the rest of us to identify with them. Yet these people are made of the same organic material, and share the same kinds of feelings and insecurities, as we all do. Maybe that’s the point of the film.

What do you think?

Brian brings up a very good point—and he’s in good company, too. Most Hollywood-insider publications have made similar observations, and have been able to back them up with very specific connections between Coppola’s fictive Marie and her own upbringing.

From PTP’s perspective, this view is particularly helpful because it’s the antithesis of an us-vs.-them philosophy. Definite distinctives do exist—but the one truth about all humanity is that none of us is perfect. And in its own way, Antoinette communicates as much truth about one unique human condition as Emperor did—or as much as Born into Brothels.

Good to hear from you, Brian!