18th Century Quest: One Nation, One King (2018)

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Is One Nation, One King (2018) the best movie ever? Probably not — it’s too detached from all its main characters to really have that kind of emotional impact. Is it an interesting take on the French Revolution? Definitely! These days we’re so fascinated by Marie-Antoinette that we forget how crucial the king — Louis XVI personally, but moreso the king as a concept — was to France and the Revolution. Are the costumes amazingly good? Yes, even if there’s not a ton of shiny. Are the wigs jaw-droppingly fabulous? Yes, I almost peed myself!!

The film was directed and written by Pierre Schoeller, who interestingly worked on Versailles the TV show. Clearly he had a burning urge to make some more serious points, because One Nation, One King (Un peuple et son roi — literally “A People and Its King” — in French) is really an examination of the relationship between the French populace and the king during the French Revolution. Initially, Louis XVI was seen as the French people’s savior — if only they could get him away from all the corrupting influences of the aristocracy at Versailles, Louis would be the one to bring rights to the French and end their suffering. Of course, that changed drastically over the course of the Revolution, ending with the king’s beheading. How did that transition happen? is the question the movie asks.

The film mostly focuses on a fictional lower-class woman named Françoise, who lives near the Bastille and gets involved in the Revolution. However, there’s a lot of scenes in the National Assembly and Convention, with Louis XVI himself, and with other revolutionaries. But it’s very episodic, and aside from a romantic connection that develops between Françoise and another character, there’s not a lot of personal emotional exploration. Instead, Schoeller was clearly more interested in bigger picture questions and dynamics, and while I can’t imagine I’d watch this movie over and over, I highly recommend it.

 

Costumes in One Nation, One King

The costumes were designed by Anaïs Romand (Children of the CenturyLes Destinées, The Last MistressThe NunDiary of a Chambermaid), and she was nominated for a César (the French Oscar) for her work on this film. In interviews, she mentions the usual budgetary challenges, as well as the fact that France’s last theatrical costume rental warehouse has closed, meaning there’s no stock to pull from. Given that the film focuses so much on the lower classes, that was her focus, and she tried to make the costumes look real:

I am very proud of this film, there is a real aesthetic, we forget the costume on the characters, none of them looks disguised. When the extras rested between two shots, I watched them in their modern and casual postures with their costumes, they looked very natural… (Google translate of Anaïs Romand, le cinéma au fil du temps).

Now, let’s take a look at those costumes so you can see what I’m raving about! I do have to complain that I tried to take a bunch of screenshots, only to discover that because I watched this on iTunes, Apple blocked me from screenshotting — which is bullshit. So I’m having to make do, image-wise, with what I can find online.

Grouped thematically:

Middle-Class Women

Unfortunately, the only middle-class women are in the background, generally observing the National Assembly/Convention. Which is too bad, both because they definitely participated in the Revolution, and what I could see of their costumes looked great.

Un Peuple et Son Roi 2018

That big poufy “bonnet” and the tapered tall crown hat are right out of fashion plates.

2018 One Nation One King

She’s got the tucked in fichu, large buttons, and “zone” front so popular in the late 1780s/early 1790s.

2018 One Nation One King

A French costume magazine featured an article about the film’s costumes, which I only discovered yesterday or I would have tried to get my hands on a copy. This redingote is LOVE!!

Royals

Louis XVI is the focus here, and he’s dressed VERY nicely (although he wears this purple coat a bit too often). My only real complaint was that the actor who played him was very obviously wearing a padded belly; the real Louis was a bigger guy, and it showed in his face as well.

2018 One Nation One King

Louis looking fly, with the dauphin in his long curls.

A. Helant, Louis XVI, 1793, Christie's

But compare Louis’s size to the real thing from this era: A. Helant, Louis XVI, 1793, Christie’s.

2018 One Nation One King

Louis’s vests frequently had some gorgeous embroidery on them. (Side note, that’s daughter Marie-Therese on the right there).

2018 One Nation One King

Embroidery close-up.

Ludwig Guttenbrunn, Marie Therese and Louis Charles of France, 18th century, Palazzo Coronini Cronberg

FYI, the real dauphin and Marie-Therese, probably a few years earlier: Ludwig Guttenbrunn, Marie Therese and Louis Charles of France, 18th century, Palazzo Coronini Cronberg.

Marie-Antoinette is a total background figure here. She’s in about three scenes, and she literally gets one line. Which I actually found interesting, given how much more of a political role Louis XVI had, and how much he is usually overshadowed by the vitriol focused at/our fascination with his queen. I definitely liked what they had her and her ladies wearing, although I was confused why they went with a super young and conventionally pretty actress (who is Marissa Berenson’s doppelgänger) instead of an appropriately older actress who had more of Marie-Antoinette’s haughty look. If you’re not going to need her to do anything, why not go for someone with the right look?

2018 One Nation One King

NO BACK LACING! Okay, so the sleeves would probably be longer by the early 1790s, but I’m 99% happy.

2018 One Nation One King

LOVE LOVE LOVE that they got the back of the hair right, as few do that!

For a great view of what late 1780s hairstyles look like, check out this amazing 3D view of a bust of Marie-Antoinette:

Alexander Kucharsky, Portrait of Marie Antoinette, 1792, Palace of Versailles

However, compare young and pretty Maëlia Gentil to the middle-aged real deal: Alexander Kucharsky, Portrait of Marie Antoinette, 1792, Palace of Versailles.

Lower-Class Women

One of the two main foci in the film, and I was glad to see it, because even a cursory scan of the French Revolution will tell you that women played key, active roles in it. I was happy to see a lot of appropriate prints and almost everyone with a cap or some kind of head covering, even if there was a bit too much scraggly hair flying around. My one complaint was that Françoise was most often dressed in her shift and stays, without a jacket or dress over it, and I question how much that was really done. (Also, her shift was almost always falling off one shoulder or the other, which, girl, get your crap organized!).

Un Peuple et Son Roi 2018

Françoise spends most of the film running around in her stays; hey, she actually has both shoulders covered for once!

2018 One Nation One King

She very occasionally throws on a jacket.

2018 One Nation One King

I’m pretty sure the production bought out Burnley & Trowbridge’s printed neck-handkerchief collection.

2018 One Nation One King

Another rare jacket sighting on Françoise! This is after an uprising, hence the lack of hair covering.

2018 One Nation One King

Wonderful printed cottons and caps on all the women!

Compare all that to some period images of French revolutionary women:

Jean-Baptiste Lesueur, Club Patriotique de Femmes, 1791, Musée Carnavalet

Jean-Baptiste Lesueur, Club Patriotique de Femmes, 1791, Musée Carnavalet

Jean-Baptiste Lesueur, Les Tricoteuses Jacobines, ou de Robespierre, c. 1793, Musée Carnavalet

My one other beef was with the number of women who had stringy hair hanging out of their caps. Yes, you’re poor, you don’t own a comb or a mirror. But you DO want to get your hair out of your face because you’re working!

2018 One Nation One King

One real-life historical figure shown was the “Reine Audu,” a fruit-seller who helped lead the women’s march on Versailles. She’s often shown in period images sitting on a cannon, so I thought it was great they had her doing that in the film!

2018 One Nation One King

Great ensemble, great textures, love the quilted petticoat and the striped skirt tucked up. Just not excited about the stringy hair.

2018 One Nation One King

A drier view, along with some of the other women.

Jacques-Philippe Caresme, Bravoure des femmes parisiennes à la journée du 5 octobre 1789 : dédiée aux femmes, c. 1789, Bibliothèque nationale de France

The real Reine Audu: Jacques-Philippe Caresme, Bravoure des femmes parisiennes à la journée du 5 octobre 1789: dédiée aux femmes, c. 1789, Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Revolutionaries

This is the other focus, and DAMN THEY DID AN AMAZING JOB HERE. Everything was Spot The Fuck On to the early 1790s, with giant collars and cuffs, and the wigs. THE WIGS. More on those in a second.

2018 One Nation One King

Danton. They got his huge blocky head right, although they’re missing many pockmarks.

Danton, 1792, Musée Carnavalet

Danton, 1792, Musée Carnavalet.

2018 One Nation One King

Pretty boy Saint-Just, with his long hair.

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, 1793, Museum of Fine Arts Lyon

Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, 1793, Museum of Fine Arts Lyon.

2018 One Nation One King

Marat, who was appropriately weird looking and whose giant fur collar and revers references one of his portraits!

Joseph Boze, Portrait of Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793), 1793, Musée Carnavalet

Joseph Boze, Portrait of Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793), 1793, Musée Carnavalet.

2018 One Nation One King

Robespierre, known for being a dandy and dressed to the NINES.

2018 One Nation One King

AKA Louis Garrel, My New Boyfriend. Do NOT throw a bunch of Gallic hotties at me and not expect me to notice!!!

2018 One Nation One King

Sans wig, with giant collar.

2018 One Nation One King

The fabrics on his waistcoat here!

Claude-André Deseine, Maximilien Robespierre, 1791, Château de Vizille

The real Robespierre: Claude-André Deseine, Maximilien Robespierre, 1791, Château de Vizille.

Portrait of Maximilien de Robespierre (1758-1794), c. 1790, Musée Carnavalet

Portrait of Maximilien de Robespierre (1758-1794), c. 1790, Musée Carnavalet.

Wig Porn

And finally, because my jaw was literally dropped for most of the film, I need to give a MASSIVE SHOUT-OUT to whoever designed the hair. IMDB credits Lucie Musci as the hair department head, with Virginie Berland as the wig maker, and someone give these two all the money in the world to do all the 18th century-set films/TV shows in the future, because DAY-UM. Not only did they get the general 18th-century style correct — short on top, long in back — and the right matte, powdered look, they got that weird square-ish shape that was fashionable in the early 1790s, and the many, many wig style variations of the period. MAD MAD PROPS HERE, PEOPLE.

To start, check out this 3D of a bust of the Marquis de La Fayette, and pay particular attention to the contrast between front hair — square shape, curly, tucked under in back — and the long back “queue.”

Marquis de La Fayette
by Rmn-Grand Palais
on Sketchfab

Now, let’s get it ON:

2018 One Nation One King

That square shape!!

2018 One Nation One King

Worn as an obvious wig, with real hair showing underneath!!

2018 One Nation One King

This guy, with the flowing queue in back and bigggg hair in front!

2018 One Nation One King

Get cranky about politics! I’m just going to admire your wigs!

2018 One Nation One King

*sobs with relief that someone finally got it right*

2018 One Nation One King

More more more!

2018 One Nation One King

Plus bonus Robespierre having his wig powdered scene!!

 

 

Have you watched One Nation, One King? What did you think?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

28 Responses

  1. NuitsdeYoung

    I was really delighted with this film! OK, Louis Garrel is more tall and angular, less pixie-nosed and winsome than the real Robespierre, but I got the idea that by casting a contemporary movie pin-up boy, they were conveying that he was v much the pin-up boy of the Revolution (who had literally screaming fangirls in the public galleries and used to get provocative fanmail from them, no doubt to his intense embarrassment!). Marat and Saint-Just look especially good – for Saint-Just, compare the pastel portrait by Angélique Louise Verrier in particular for the hairstyle.
    Re: backs of wigs, Robespierre’s isn’t right, I suspect because Louis Garrel doesn’t have very long hair in reality, so it would have required a kind of ‘double-wigging’. If you look at the back of the Deseine bust, Robespierre’s wig leaves his natural back hair exposed: that was either worn in a queue or loose, but was unpowdered, giving a two-tone look.
    https://66.media.tumblr.com/38f823070dc436acaf8bfe718c5aab0d/tumblr_pvha6l6ndo1wvzp59o4_500.jpg
    https://66.media.tumblr.com/40ab6ffae62f957ecdef0c462113dba5/tumblr_pvha6l6ndo1wvzp59o7_500.jpg
    (The oval portrait at Versailles shows this – long golden-brown hair at the back.
    http://collections.chateauversailles.fr/?permid=permobj_6172a9b6-0108-4dff-94a8-7f01e9e4b7bf ) See also my user icon, a 1793 engraving of him with back hair loose under wig.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Sure, in the 1790s, there was an increasing use of natural hair amongst the politically liberal — but they also wore half wigs, which actually covered the BACK side of the head (ie the long queue) and used the wearer’s own hair as the front shorter portion. But almost all late 18th c. hairstyles or wigstyles had that same short in front/sides/top, long in back cut — that doesn’t indicate whether or not it’s the wearer’s own hair, it’s simply the style.

      Reply
      • NuitsdeYoung

        Yup. Robespierre’s is a half-wig that only covers the front (the bust shows it clearly). From a sketch of him the day of his death without a wig (by Parseval-Grandmaison), I suspect it’s because his hairline was receding a little bit at the front…

        Reply
  2. Nzie

    wow! looks like a great film, and fantastic costumes. definitely adding to my to watch list!

    Reply
  3. Author Jennifer Quail

    You on wigs sound like me on old-West firearms in “The Salvation.” Not just appropriate models for the people/economic level/era, they had to do things like reload. I kind of understand wigs are not easy to make, I’m sure, but you’d think with so many painted period references they’d make a skotch more effort more often!

    Reply
  4. Barbara

    This looks wonderful, and I can’t wait to find it … but Marat, with his fur collar, reminds me of something that occasionally bothers me about costume flicks. From time to time I see costume designs that are not just inspired by, but are directly copied from, portraits of real people. And sometimes that’s okay – a famous queen appearing onscreen in a well-known and documented gown, for example. But portraits are still secondary references, and don’t always reflect what was actually worn, or what would have been worn under everyday circumstances. Is there actually documentation describing someone wearing an exotic animal fur collar like that out on the street? Was it more common than we realize for the period? It seems so out of place, but maybe there are other period images/portraits showing that kind of garment?

    Reply
    • NuitsdeYoung

      The fur in the portrait looks like a cheap one that has been made to look more exotic: the spots look painted on.

      Reply
      • Aleko

        It was also a major trend in military headgear. Dragoons of the ancien regime French army (and other European armies) wore a helmet of boiled leather with a peak, which had a band (known as a ‘turban’) of “leopardskin”. Some of these will indeed have been real leopard fur, as worn by Louis XVI’s father the Dauphin as in your Pinterest page, but it isn’t remotely plausible that the average private’s turban was. Probably regulation-issue ones were made of cowskin or similar, painted to simulate leopard, or actual fake fur. In 1791 the French army adopted this helmet for their newly-raised infantry as well, including the ‘peau de panthère’ turban, and some surviving examples of these are clearly fake fur, e.g: model-1791-revolutionary-light-infantry-helmet-168527,
        or just painted textile:
        https://www.binocheetgiquello.com/lot/7078/1377640

        So yes, ‘leopard-look’ was massively à la mode in period, and spanned the entire price range from real leopard to crudely painted canvas.

        Reply
  5. EA Gorman

    Glad that you enjoyed the wigs. Good to see the women of the Revolution get proper credit. Too bad Napoleon took their accomplishments away from them with his stupid Code.

    Reply
  6. Al Don

    I’ll have to check it out. Sadly Netflix doesn’t have it yet. I was aware of La Révolution française (1989), but made it a point to see it based on Frock Flick’s recommendation and loved it. I likewise saw The Lady and the Duke (2001) because of Frock Flicks.

    Reply
  7. Damnitz

    I did’nt saw the film because it’s just not positive and my time researching that period is over. I find that the casting of the lower-class very good looking, not too well fed girls. The wigs are very nice.
    I prefer actors like Balmer in such a role like Louis XVI.

    Reply
  8. M.E. Lawrence

    Correct back-hair styling, both natural and wig? That is just admirable. But what odd royalty casting: Louis XVI looked like a big, good-natured farm boy, and this actor is fairly hot in an introspective way.

    Reply
  9. Mizdema

    Stringy : didn’t know that word.Well, that’s «filasse» «cheveux filasse» or «blond filasse» in french. (Loose and unwashed, undefined color)
    Google translate said «filandreux» but this one is for a fibrous meat.
    Adèle Haenel , Françoise in this movie, to be seen in «portrait of a lady on fire».

    Reply

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