Cannes Q&A: Marie Antoinette
By M&C News May 24, 2006, 23:28 GMT
Sofia Coppola at Cannes © AFP
With ‘Marie Antoinette,’ director Sofia Coppola presents her first feature film in competition in Cannes.
This marks the third time that the American has seen one of her works screened at the Festival: in 1989, she was the screenwriter of one of the segments of ‘New York Stories’ by her father Francis Ford, presented in Competition; and in 1999, she came with ‘The Virgin Suicides’ to the Directors' Fortnight.
For ‘Marie Antoinette,’ she teams up once more with Kirsten Dunst, her star from ‘The Virgin Suicides,’ to whom she confided the title role as the renowned wife of Louis XIV in a highly personal biography steeped in her own contemporary cultural tastes.
Sofia Coppola, who continues to portray isolated and misunderstood young women, on the tormented character of Marie Antoinette: "For me, Marie Antoinette has remained, first and foremost, the symbol of a totally decadent style. I didn't realize to what point these people, who were called upon to govern a country, were in point of fact no more than teenagers.
Daily life in the Château de Versailles is also, for these adolescents, a form of apprenticeship set in a tense, difficult environment. It is this position and the complexity of the character of Marie Antoinette which interested me."
Sofia Coppola presided over the press conference for her feature- with actors Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Steve Coogan, Marianne Faithfull and Aurore Clément, as well as costume designer Milena Canonero and producer Ross Katz.
Sofia Coppola on the character of Marie Antoinette: "I wasn't making a political movie about the French Revolution, I was doing a portrait of the character Marie Antoinette and my themes are in the film.
She was a symbol of decadence.
It was very interesting to read and research more about Marie Antoinette, more about the human experience of this young girl who went to Versailles when she was 14 and how she developed in the Cour de Versailles.
I thought she was an interesting character. I have always been attracted to the 18th century in France. I knew so little about the personal side of her. The story is about teenagers in Versailles so I wanted it to have the energy of youth, a teenage feeling to it."
Kirsten Dunst, on playing Marie-Antoinette: "I think she was of her time, I think she was modern in Versailles. Sofia gave me liberties to be who I am and not be confined by trying to portray a historical figure in a regimented way. For me it was really finding what her essence was and how she moved me. For me it became a very sensual experience. It was very much coming from within, me playing the character. Everything was very visceral for me."
Kirsten Dunst on French history: "When you grow up in France, you learn about French history. When you grow up in America, French history is a smaller paragraph in your textbook. So I didn't know an enormous amount about Marie Antoinette, except that she was beheaded. After reading Antonio Fraser's novel, she became a very human woman to me and the fact that she was a queen so young was so tragic. Antonio's novel made it a very personal story for me.”
Steve Coogan on the film's critics: "When you make a film that refers to a specific, it's inevitable that there will be some nay-sayers. It's better to have that than bland and beautiful.
It's consistent with all the qualities of putting the action in the past. The people who love to see a Coppola film, will love this one. She wanted it to be a sort of historical document and giving it contemporary resonance."
Sofia Coppola on the soundtrack: "I wanted to use a mixture of 18th century and contemporary music, to use a music that had the emotional quality that the scene should have. When she went to the ball, she was excited and I picked the music that gives that feeling the most. So I wanted to do a combination of modern and period music."
Jason Schwartzman on Louis XVI: "Approaching the role, I had to do all the research, we all did and know the etiquette of the society then, with the movements. Those rules were essential in building the character, but once the frame, the clothes, the timing and movements were established, the things one might think of as modern to me are simply the emotions of the human beings.
It showed to me that we could be a king and be shy and troubled at the same time; these feelings are timeless."
Marianne Faithfull on her character Marie Theresa from Austria: "I thought my character Marie Theresa had a very mixed character.
There is a very human quality, but in some ways she was a monster.
What she did with Marie Antoinette was monstrous and she could see from the letters what she had done. Actually she's the least decadent person in the film, which was quite a change for me! (laughs)"
Aurore Clément on how the Cour de Versailles resembles that of Cannes: "I spoke at length with Sofia and I realized how much my inspiration for Versailles came from Cannes.
Cannes is the jet set of today like Versailles was then. In Cannes everyone is looking for the coveted invitations to the parties, to be noticed and it was quite the same at Versailles."
Milena Canonero on the costumes: "Sofia gave me very specific directions. She did not want to do a ‘tableau vivant' of the period. She wanted the movie to be fresh and as you heard, to have references to today.
She didn't want to reproduce the Marie Antoinette that you see in the films or other famous painters of the period. It was something that had to be in tune with the movie she was going to do.
© Festival de Cannes