As previously mentioned, I’m spending some time in Paris, so expect a whole lot of French content from Kendra! I was excited to check out whether I’d have access to any French TV or movies that I can’t access back home, and was super annoyed to find that my AirBnB hadn’t subscribed to Canal+. But I was searching around and discovered Marie Antoinette: The Trial of a Queen, which I somehow missed back when it was released in 2018. It’s a docudrama available on Amazon for US viewers, and overall, I enjoyed it, especially having just visited the Musée Carnavalet which has some of the items belonging to the French queen and her family when they were imprisoned during the French Revolution.
This was a TV film and as I said, it’s a docudrama. Weirdly, there are two “episodes” listed on Amazon. The first is entirely the drama portion of the docudrama but with voice over narration; the second is the same film, but intercut with talking head historians, and so I assume there’s some content that’s cut from the first episode — I don’t know, when I figured out they were essentially the same thing, I stopped watching episode 2.
You can tell this film was made for French viewers, because it really starts with Marie-Antoinette moved to solo imprisonment in the Conciergerie, with a few flashbacks, and moves through her execution. I would think a lot of non-French viewers would be confused by the lack of context showing what led the queen and the country to this point. Luckily, I am pretty familiar! The doc came out at the same time there was an exhibit going on about the changing image of the queen, and I’m thinking the filmmakers were trying to help viewers understand that Marie-Antoinette wasn’t all cake and parties — something again I think most French people would know, but you definitely learn a lot about her character when you understand how she reacted to this whole ordeal.
Maud Wyler (Maison Close, Diary of a Chambermaid) plays Marie-Antoinette, and I think she’s a good choice. She conveys the queen’s quiet strength very well, something that’s hard to do given that was indeed how the queen responded to things — no big fiery emotional scenes here to work with, but you can see her intelligence and strength of character. She does look a little young for the role — Marie-Antoinette was only 37 when she died (Wyler was 36ish when this aired), but the revolution was very hard on her, and she died looking much older than she was (including her hair turning white). Wyler definitely looked drained, but not the 50s-ish kind of look I’d expect.
Sadly no costumer designer is listed on IMDB, but whoever it is did a great job — although what you see on screen is necessarily limited. Marie-Antoinette spends most of her time in the black widow’s weeds that she did in fact wear in real life:
The filmmakers interpret this as a relatively high-necked chemise gown:
As you can see, the actress sports grey hair — I’m not sure if Marie-Antoinette went white or gray — which is styled fashionably, but a bit too big compared to the portraits above.
That being said, her caps and headwear were on point:
There’s a few flashbacks, one very dimly lit where the queen is teaching the dauphin:
And then a really beautifully executed scene in which she’s dressing for her execution in the white chemise that is laid out for her, her every move observed by guards, which is then interspersed with the famous moment in which she came to France and had to change into French clothes at the border. Filmically, it’s super moving – but my enjoyment was curtailed by the fact that the flashback costumes were questionable, and even more, the French ladies basically stand there and make Marie-Antoinette change herself, out of doors, and then only curtsy to her AFTER she’s in French clothes. I see the point they’re trying to make, but come on. She was an archduchess and future dauphine. She changed in a tent and was undressed and dressed by attendants.
The rest of the characters are either lower-class women or men, all of whom were well dressed:
In the end, I definitely recommend the film — maybe watch the “second episode” if you’d like a bit more explication, and the first if you’re more here for the visuals?