January 29th, 2014
The most famous quotation associated with the ill-fated Marie Antoinette–“Let them eat cake!”–was never really said by her. In fact, in the past century many historians have sought to uncover the true personality and history of this often-maligned historical figure. She is often portrayed as a spoiled, uncaring spendthrift who spent France into ruin and paid for it during the Revolution with her life.
This spoiled reputation is what actress Diane Kruger had in mind when she was given the script for Les adieux a la reine, or Farewell, My Queen Before she read the script, Kruger believed she would more or less be playing Marie Antoinette as she–and popular culture–viewed her. In other words, as a spoiled, clueless and brainless royal brat.
Yet Kruger did not let her previous beliefs about Marie Antoinette influence her performance. Instead, she decided to do her own research while preparing for the role. She read the biography of Marie Antoinette by Stefan Zweig, arguably the biography that launched a thousand others which dealt with Marie Antoinette as a human being rather than a caricature.
Of the maturity of the doomed queen, Kruger wrote: “[After the fall of the Bastille] … it dawned on her that this was the end of the life they had known. She realized this sooner than [everyone else, and] took more seriously her responsibilities … She had a moment when she ‘manned up’ and became a real queen.”
And it is this interpretation of a queen who understands that her world is dying and will do what she can to save it that shines through in Kruger’s performance, which has been praised by audiences and critics alike as enigmatic, fluid, and quicksilver.
Marie Antoinette, historically, lived in multiple worlds at once—in the world of the public display of court, where she was expected to exude “Majesty” and impress all who watched her upon the figurative stage; and in the world of her own private apartments where she could be herself, free to sit on her bed barefoot and enjoy reading plays or looking at the latest fashions without having to worry about impressions or Majesty.
In the film, Kruger is able to capture a historical figure that is often inaccessible and give her a realistic, human portrayal; and in doing so, she breathes the historical queen new life. Click here to find more TV and Film entertainment.