FAREWELL MY QUEEN
Directed by Benoit JACQUOT
The School Of Flesh, The Untouchable
All the debauchery, betrayal, power and tragedy of Marie Antoinette’s court in its last days witnessed by one of her
July 1789. At the dawn of the French Revolution, as turmoil brews in Paris, Versailles carries on, careless and unworried, as if isolated from the rest of the world. Sidonie Laborde, the Queen’s young reader, carefree and entirely devoted, takes full advantage of the intimate moments which tie her to Marie Antoinette, whom she admires so much. Sidonie is unaware that she is about to live out the last three days she’ll ever have at her mistress’ side, in the Versailles of pomp, extravagance, games of leisure and luxury.
Spending her days in salons, private apartments and the Petit Trianon, where she caters to her mistress’s every whim, the young reader also gets to know the other side of Versailles. The gilt façade falls away to reveal an unwholesome and dangerous place. The endless, labyrinth-like hallways spawn rumors about the Queen’s voracious passion for the Duchess Gabrielle de Polignac. And the walls begin to echo with the outcry of a hungry people… The guileless Sidonie doesn’t dare believe the murmurs and whispers. Nothing can happen to them at Versailles. And yet, the news arrives the morning of July 15th. Rioters have taken the Bastille by storm. The people have taken up arms. Mutinies are springing up throughout the kingdom. The Revolution is underway and the courtiers are worried. What will become of them?
Versailles lives out its final hours. The nobles scramble in the face of destiny, the courtiers move out by the light of the moon. The Revolution is inescapable. The Court is dying.
Based on the novel by Chantal Thomas (Editions du Seuil)
BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL / IN COMPETITION / Opening Film
2011 /// France /// French/// Drama
CAST Léa SEYDOUX, Diane KRUGER, Virginie LEDOYEN, Xavier BEAUVOIX /// SCREENPLAY, ADAPTATION, DIALOGS Gilles TAURAND, Benoit JACQUOT /// PRODUCTION COMPANY GMT PRODUCTIONS, LES FILMS DU LENDEMAIN ///
I read “Farewell, My Queen” when it was published and I immediately thought it would make an interesting film. I even said this to Chantal Thomas when I met her. But it was only years later that a producer proposed that I work out concretely what appeared to me as being not just a good idea, but also a wish come true. I believe that the principles which guide the book “Farewell”, if we hew to them for an eventual film adaptation, allow us to imagine original, rarely seen perspectives. The concentration of time and space, these days and nights during which the world of Versailles splinters brutally, like a shipwreck. The rigorous bias towards the young woman, to follow during this time and in this place the Queen’s reader, to only hear, see and know what she is given to know and feel as the hours pass and peril approaches. The Queen defines the life of this reader in both function and emotion, like a magnetic pole that attracts or repels. For the young reader, the Queen is a kind of idol, whether she bestows herself or secludes herself, first according to her whim and then, gradually, pressed by the invading signs of an accelerated History at work.
The film will move at the rhythm of Sidonie the reader’s heartbeat, more and more agitated, as disaster spreads from hallways to galleries, from bedrooms to salons, from the cellars to the rafters and will rest, at ease, strangely languid, in the presence of the Queen. We’d like to avoid the anecdotal, the decorative, the tired vignettes that don’t hold any interest for us anymore. Rather than an improbable reconstitution, or one guided by fantasy, we will allow ourselves the means – lightness, mobility – to create the lost and panicked world that Sidonie traverses, always moving closer to or further away from the being who is its center for her, the Queen.
Making the film as if we were making a documentary report of this period, to give the sensation of presence in such a way that this part of the past becomes present, a present lived “for real” for the duration of the film, for the audience as well as Sidonie.