Job by Alexis Lebrun October 24, 2022
After Versailles, the CANAL+ Original Creation returns to the Ancien Régime with a new period series on the Archduchess of Austria and wife of Louis XVI. This ambitious production intends to present Marie-Antoinette in a different light, rarely seen in the countless screen adaptations of her tragic fate.
Back to court
The fans of the series Versailles know it, it was under the reign of Louis XIV that the famous “etiquette” of the court of France took on the craziest proportions. Why start there? Because these strict rules put in place by the Sun King are at the heart of this first season of Marie Antoinettewhich is that of the discovery of Versailles by the new Dauphine of France.
The series also begins directly with the departure of the daughter of Marie-Thérèse of Austria for France, where she is to marry the future Louis XVI. We are in 1770 and she is only 14 years old and not yet menstruating, but she must already “give” an heir to her husband, who is a year older than her. The heartbreaking separation from her mother, her roots (and her dog, failed at the border!), the arrival in a gilded prison where no one can be trusted: Marie-Antoinette’s first steps in Versailles are painful and resemble almost at the beginning of the series to a psychological horror film, which transcribes all the cruelty and misogyny of the court of the time.
And it’s a real basket of crabs. There are the two daughters of Louis XV, gossips obsessed with etiquette who hate the Dauphine so much that they try to send her home, the sultry Comtesse du Barry who wants to do the same when she feels threatened, the pervert Louis XV who calls himself “Papa Roi” and likes teenagers like Marie-Antoinette a little too much, and of course the dolphin himself, presented in the series as a lonely teenager, not very keen on his hygiene and so paralyzed by his girlfriend that he prefers to avoid her at all costs. In short, welcome to Versailles!
A feminist queen?
But these are just some of the very many characters encountered during these first eight episodes, which extend from 1770 to 1780, the year of death of Marie-Antoinette’s mother. Between the two, she became – among other things – Queen of France (at 18!), and began to feel a little more comfortable at Versailles, which she began to transform according to her wishes.
It is an essential facet of Marie-Antoinette, a queen who did not agree with the rules decided a century earlier, and who aspires to more freedom and glamor in a Versailles which suffocates her under the weight of her traditions. Was Marie-Antoinette a feminist before her time?
In any case, this is the point of view of Deborah Davis, the creator of the series, surrounded by a team of female screenwriters. This name is not at all unknown to fans of costume fiction, since she was nominated for an Oscar for the script of The Favorite (Yórgos Lánthimos, 2018), a great period film about 18th century England, and Oscar for best actress for Olivia Colman.
An international cast for an English-language series
The impressive costumes and sets of the series were supervised respectively by Madeline Fontaine (holder of three Césars, a BAFTA, an Oscar nomination) and Pierre Quefféléan, César winner in 2018 for the sets ofgoodbye up there (Albert Dupontel, 2017). On the casting side, it’s the German Emilia Schüle (Treadstone) who was chosen to play Marie-Antoinette.
We also recognize the French Gaia Weiss (The revolution) as Madame du Barry, James Purefoy (Rome, Altered Carbon) in the shoes of Louis XV and Marthe Keller (Marathon Man) in that of Marie-Thérèse. Jack Archer (The Bay) plays the terrible Count of Provence, while Roxane Duran (Riviera), interprets Joséphine, his wife. And since this first season ends in 1780, there should be two more to cover the following years of Marie-Antoinette’s life.
Marie Antoinette episodes 1 to 8, broadcast from October 31 on CANAL+.
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Marie-Antoinette, the series that takes a fresh look at the last queen of France | myCANAL Chad