Saturday, February 17, 2007
La Reine et Moi
I knew. I knew, and yet I was hoping against hope that the movie that you made was somehow the movie I really, really wanted to see about Her Majesty, the last Queen of France. I wanted someone to show the heartbreaking truth of what it is like to be in a gilded cage, how it feels to have not the slightest decision to be your own, what real grace in the face of death may look like. Instead, what you gave all the world was a lovely, lovely, empty painting of a lost teenager being indulged in the fulfillment of insubstantial wishes. It is the same movie you have made before, and I am a little sad about it.
We have already talked, you and I, about my own attraction to the doomed Queen, and I thought perhaps I understood a little about your motivation. But I was wrong, wasn't I? You never lamented to woman she was forced to become, or regretted the woman she never was, but instead you identified with the child of privilege and wealth who wielded her power carelessly and frivolously. Don't misunderstand me - your movie was stunning. It was a crystal chandelier of a movie, though, a layer cake, and the Marie Antoinette who grew in my mind while making this costume was a whole meal, and the candles behind the reflections. She was a woman who I imagine loved her children and her country and feared death and perhaps welcomed it, at the end. She was a woman who was asked to be a woman before she was grown, after never really having been allowed to be a child herself. She was a pawn, and she was a player. She craved simplicity and loved luxury. She was a bundle of contradictions, just like you or me or anyone, and she was made an example of because of it. Didn't that break your heart? Where was that in this gilded plate of petit fours? Where was the woman who dared to have herself painted astride like the King himself, who dared to be seen sans corset? That is the portrait I was awaiting.
Antonia, you were there somewhere. The candyfloss and fairydust they spin around you, the curses and the punchlines that still accompany your name down through the annals of history, they are the stories we always weave around the women we don't or can't understand. You are there in the heart of the tales, and perhaps someday, we'll see your face instead of your reflection.