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Starting with our second Snark Week, I’ve picked a shitty frock flick to recap, because I love sharing the blow-by-blows with you. This year, I asked you to choose what film/series I should recap, and the clear winner was Maria Theresia (2017-). This is an Austrian-Czech miniseries about Empress Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empress and empress/queen of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Transylvania, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands, and Parma, beginning in 1741 and reigning through 1780. The series had two (LONG) episodes in 2017, two more in 2019, and apparently a further two more are planned. I’ll recap the four existing episodes this week, and on Friday I’ll do some actual research and talk about what the production got right, and where they messed up, in the costumes.
Check out my recaps of episode one and two!
Episode three changes up a lot. It came out two years later, with a different actress playing Maria Theresa. Crucially, the costume and hair have gotten WAY better … but there’s still plenty to snark! From what I can tell it’s still the same costume designer, but clearly there was more time or money for these next two episodes.
Once again, I’m not able to watch this with English subtitles. There’s a German language version available on YouTube, so I’ve got auto-generated German titles being auto-translated into English … which means I missed many subtleties!
We begin in what turns out to be Versailles, with French King Louis XV being painted with two floozies… who turn out to be Goth Mom (i.e., Francis’s mother) and Madame de Pompadour, the king’s official mistress. There’s various talk of war against Austria/Maria Theresa. We’re now in the 1740s, FYI.
Back in Austria, a random floozy has a sad because Francis’s carriage doesn’t stop for her and splatters her in mud. Court Bitch #1 stops by to say “nyah nyah” — turns out this is one of Francis’s floozies. Francis’s floozy turns up at Francis’s palace? textile business? getting back into his favor and getting him to set her up in an apartment.
Francis’s textile business is doing some shady dealings with the Prussians, the Austrian’s enemy.
Maria Theresa has been recast with an ACTUAL PLUS-SIZE ACTRESS (Stefanie Reinsperger) who ACTUALLY HAS THE RIGHT BODY TYPE TO PLAY A MATURE MARIA THERESA:
THIS NEVER HAPPENS. I will give this production MASSIVE PROPS for making this choice. The actress is good, she’s pretty (she actually reminds me of Adele in the out-of-costume photos I’ve seen of her), and she’s LITERALLY THE RIGHT FIGURE TYPE. This is me:
MT’s hair is slightly prom, but we’ve LOST THE SHITTY WOMEN’S WIGS, which, hallelujah, and the quality of MT’s dresses is waaaay higher than in episodes one and two.
This black dress is made of a patterned damask; the stomacher appears to be black velvet with gold embroidery on it.
Goth Mom is headed to Austria — possibly at Louis XV’s behest? She is wearing a HIDEOUS PAISLEY DRESS with SEWN-IN STOMACHER AND PETTICOAT. A new low has been reached.
MT isn’t excited about Goth Mom coming to visit. She bitches to her mother about it.
MT receives Goth Mom, along with her sister. Goth Mom has brought her younger son, Charles Alexander of Lorraine, with her.
Goth Mom brings that portrait of her with Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour. Here it is in all its splendor:
MT’s mom is overly excited about theater. After watching a troupe perform, the royals go to meet the actors, where MT and Francis have some terse words about the fact that he is gambling a lot; clearly all is not well in that marriage.
Goth Mom and MT spar; Goth Mom thinks Austria is lame.
Some rando shows up at court and cries to MT about someone (sorry, didn’t catch who!) being murdered. MT is sympathetic and maybe lends her some money? Sorry, YouTube’s auto-translate of auto-generated subtitles wasn’t clear.
There’s more sparring between Goth Mom and MT:
Franz von der Trenck is causing problems. He’s both a great soldier but also cruel.
Things are Not Good in the Hapsburg bedroom. MT suspects Goth Mom is feeding information to the French, since the war is NOT going well for the Austrians and the French seem to be anticipating their every move. Francis is defensive.
Goth Mom and MT have a passive aggressive fight involving wigs.
MT does some shooting while courtiers look on.
MT and Goth Mom CONTINUE to spar. Charles (Francis’s brother) volunteers to soldier up in the Austrian Empire … and proposes to Maria Anna.
MT goes to Bratislava, where she visits with Hottie Hungarian (Esterhazy).
MT is peeved to discover the military is using her image in place of the Virgin Mary, as a way to inspire the troops. Hottie Hungarian argues that they need to identify MT as Austria.
At a theater performance, Goth Mom invites Francis’s floozy to sit with her, then brings floozy along to gambling afterwards. I’m fuzzy on the specifics, but it’s clearly a dig at MT and her crew.
Maria Anna accepts Charles’s proposal.
The banns are read in church for Charles and Maria Anna’s wedding. As they leave the church, bad boy von der Trenck shows up with his troops and offers to fight for MT. Despite the fact that von der Trenck then beheads a soldier who has stolen something from the church right in front of everyone, MT accepts.
Somehow Francis and Charles figure out that Goth Mom WAS spying for the French.
MT is depressed in her study while everyone else is at a ball. A messenger arrives and announces that finally, the Austrians have won an important victory against the French. MT is thrilled, arrives at the ball, announces the good news, and gets DOWN.
Goth Mom is sent packing. Everyone knows she was the spy, and barbed words are exchanged, although I think they are of the veiled variety.
Stay tuned for another episode each day until Friday, when I’ll do an Actual Research review!
Whoa, this is such an improvement from the first two episodes I can almost feel myself giving everything else a pass… I mean, they even stopped putting wigs on all the ladies. Huge change. I wonder if maybe the designer just had a very short design time for the first part and was renting a lot?
Also, love the re-casting. Not for anything but after the first two write-ups I googled Maria Theresa and she gave birth to like 16 children (most of whom survived to adulthood, yay, and including Marie Antoinette, which I hadn’t put together)… I mean, of course there just wouldn’t be a lot of time to lose weight between that many pregnancies.
Why does Goth Mom not age? Is she secretly Goth Vampire Mom?
History still is in failure mode, but casting an actress that looks like she has had 16 children (actual count) and is beautiful is a plus and the costumes go from an F to possibly a C- and still not period appropriate. But they look preety-ish.
Could some costumes belong to the Vienna State Opera?
Improvement. We love to see it!
The bed sharing might in fact be correct – I remember reading in Antonia Fraser’s bio of Marie Antoinette that Maria Theresa and Francis did indeed share a bed and that was one of the many “helpful suggestions” that MT kept giving MA and Louis XVI to fix the no consummation problem.
So the dresses are getting better. Losing the awful cotton ball wigs helps a lot doesn’t it? But so much skirt hiking! As I understand it one of the advantages of hoops is that they hold the skirts away from your feet so you don’t have to lift them but sort of steer them by resting your hands easily on the swell.
As a larger woman myself, it’s always good to see more non-skinny women in media, especially when they were appropriate in history. The dresses do look better, and I wonder how Marie Antoinette’s marriage will be handled.
Exeunt, chased by a Calash!
I didn’t saw it yet. It’s typical that the designers or directors find the 1740s fashion too boring. Therefor they have to give the main characters at least high coiffures (as they done in “Tom Jones” 1997, “Thieves in the Wood” (in combination with beards!) 2019 …). The whole story seems to be in the same stupid style. I hate the fact, that in every German or Austrian production the French are depicted in a comic style.
I don’t think that 1740s fashion is boring.Instead,I am less fond of the 1780s fashion when everything went too pastel and too calico,and too much hair(hedgehogs!).I just love the opulent smartness of 1740s fashions-neither too showy nor too subdued,and neither drowning in a sea of jewels nor getting washed out in a sea of pastels.I so wish somebody got the era right.Unfortunately very few productions are set in this era and the ones that are set are clunkers like MT.
Oh dear, exactly. There are so many portraits from roughly that era scattered in Czech chateaus, often more streamlined because they are just your everyday nobility, smooth bodices, jewel tones and simpler hair, and I love those styles, and they’re totally non-existant in popular culture and popular perceptions of the 18th century. Bah!
For a minute, I was afraid that Goth Mom had lost her goth…
But luckily she seems to have gotten in back. I agree that this is a huge improvement over the first two, though.
I think they may have had a bigger budget this time around, and I do remember from the exhibition I saw last year that they got their brocades from an Italian workshop that specialises in them. I also seem to remember that the costume designer is still pretty young so he may have just expanded his historical knowledge considerably since last time, in fact. :D
The ridiculous storylines / soap-opera style of the previous installment were enough for me to not want to see the rest, though. But some of the new dresses really impressed me a lot, especially in the context of otherwise being used to n-times rented old Barrandov costumes… although others are still pretty bad in the “more to tell a story to a modern audience than any respect for what was actually done historically”. (I came upon the exhibition by chance while visiting a chateau.)
Also there was a really cute photo of the two main actors getting selfies in costume. :D