Les adieux à la reine (Farewell, My Queen) (2012)

 

 

 

 

Director:     Benoît Jacquot

Starring:     Léa Seydoux (Agathe-Sidonie Laborde), Diane Kruger (Marie Antoinette), Virginie Ledoyen (La duchesse Gabrielle de Polignac), Noémie Lvovsky (Henriette Genest dite Madame Campan), Xavier Beauvois (Le roi Louis XVI), Michel Robin (Jacob-Nicolas Moreau - l'archiviste de Versailles), Julie-Marie Parmentier (La servante Honorine Aubert), Lolita Chammah (La domestique Louison), Marthe Caufman (La domestique Alice), Vladimir Consigny (René dit Paolo), Dominique Reymond (Madame de Rochereuil), Anne Benoît (Rose Bertin), Hervé Pierre (L'abbé Hérissé), Aladin Reibel (L'abbé Cornu de la Balivière), Jacques Nolot (Monsieur de Jolivet), Jacques Herlin (Marquis de Vaucouleurs), Martine Chevallier (Madame de la Tour Du Pin), Jacques Boudet (Monsieur de la Tour du Pin), Jean-Chrétien Sibertin-Blanc (Le duc de Polignac), Jean-Marc Stehlé (Le maréchal de Broglie), Serge Renko (Le marquis de la Chesnaye), Gilles David (Le vicaire Moullet), Pierre Rochefort (Le valet Antonin), Rodolphe Congé (L'officier de la Garde Nationale), Grégory Gadebois (Le comte de Provence), Francis Leplay (Le comte d'Artois), Yves Penay (Monsieur de Barentin), Sonia Joubert (Augustine), Tibo Motte (Gustav), Pierre Berriau (Le premier huissier), Pascal Vannson (Le deuxième huissier), Maurice Delaistier (Le secrétaire violoniste), Emmanuelle Bougerol (Une fille de cuisine), Véronique Nordey (Madame Tournon), Jean-Pierre Guérin (Monsieur Janvier).

last days of Queen Marie Antoinette in the Versaille Palace as seen by the Queen's reader

 

Spoiler Warning:

Versailles, July 14th 1789.  A clock alarm goes off awakening a pretty, young brunette woman.  Her skin feels itchy and she scratches herself.  The woman's name is Sidonie.  A woman named Louison knocks on her closed door asking what time is it?  It's 6:15 a.m.  Louison asks if she can enter the room.  Sidonie goes over to the latch and unlatches the door.  Louison enters and says:  "Guess who I slept with."  Sidonie says she doesn't care.  Louison leaves the room telling Sidonie that she'll end up an old maid.

Sidonie goes downstairs.  She tells the maid Alice that the Queen wants her at the Trianon.  She asks for some violet fragrance.  She gets the perfume and starts putting in it on her body as she asks how is Madame de Bargue?  The maid says the more he cheats, the more she eats.

And now Sidonie has to run to another building.  She falls down as she is running and gets her dress wet and dirty. A woman, Madame Campan, tells Sidonie that she is ten minutes late.  And Sidonie is filthy too!

Sidonie asks how did Her Majesty sleep?  Madame Campan says Her Majesty did not sleep well at all.  She had a terrible nightmare and Madame de Soubise found her in tears.

Sidonie is the reader for Her Majesty.  Madame Campan asks her what will she read today?  Sidonie says Marivaux.  Madame Campan doesn't like that choice and suggests Bossuet's "Funeral Orations".    She adds that the Queen takes comfort in all things Austrian. 

Sidonie goes in to see the Queen and tells her what her selection is.  The Queen says funeral orations are terribly dismal!  The Queen tells her to get a certain book from her library and read that one to her.

Sidonie returns after getting the book and starts reading it to the Queen.  Suddenly, the Queen asks Sidonie why is she scratching herself so much?  Sidonie says it's mosquito bites.  The Queen is concerned and tells Madame Campan to go get some rosewood water for Mademoiselle Laborde.  The Queen applies the ointment on the bites on Sidonie's left forearm.  Meanwhile an elderly lady comes into the room.  Now Madame Campan signals to Sidonie to leave the bedroom.  Sidonie leaves.  Madame Campan says that she and Sidonie will have to have a chat about Sidonie scratching herself before the Queen. 

Sidonie takes a ride in a canal boat.  The boatman asks Sidonie if she knows Gabrielle de Polignac?  She answers:  "The entire court knows her."  The boatman says he's heard that the Queen is infatuated and that Gabrielle pays no attention at all to her husband.  Sidonie tires of listening to the gossip and tells  the boatman to turn the boat around and return.  The Duchess now gets into Paolo's boat and takes a ride.

Elderly lady Madame Tournon tells Sidonie that it seems that bread is getting scarcer and scarcer in Paris.  That's why the wolves leave the forest.  Sidonie doesn't like this type of foreboding talk.  Madame Tournon says at her age she looks at the truth straight on.  Sidonie strikes back with:  "The truth is, we're safe at Versailles."

Sidonie embroiders some with a friend.  She doesn't like embroidery and neither does her friend.  She asks the young woman if she knows this Paolo fellow.  The friend sure does know him.  He's not Italian, but French and he's an actor and a born liar.  Watch out for him. 

At lunch a woman says that Louison has a new lover.  His name is Gustav and he's a grenadier in a Swiss regiment.  Two clergymen comes in and they want to dance with the pretty girls. 

Versailles, July 15th, 1789.  Louison is knocking at Sidonie's door again early in the morning.  She says:  "They woke the King up!"  Sidonie comes out.  The rumor is that the King ate some bad cod-fish.  So many people have different versions of what happened.  Does anybody really know?

Sidonie's friend reports to her that M. and MMe. de la Tour de Pin spoke in English around her, but they  used the word Bastille four times in their conversation.  She believes that something bad happened there. 

As Sidonie walks to the Queen's chambers, she sees furniture being move out of the palace.  She walks fast but Madame Campan calls Sidonie over to her.  She says that Madame Bertin needs Sidonie.  Madame Bertin tells Sidonie that her embroiderer is ill and the Queen asked that they make a dahlia sampler.  She wants Sidonie to embroider for her.  Sidonie says she will do it if Madame Bertin tells her what happened last night.  So Bertin tells her:  "The people stormed the Bastille."  She adds that the situation is very dire and Sidonie must not tell anyone. 

Sidonie now goes to the library to talk to the wise old man there known as Mr. Moreau.  He gives her more details.  A munitions convoy heading to the Bastille was attacked by rioters, who then pillaged the Invalides arsenal. They armed the people and headed en masse to the Bastille.  The French Guard put up a bitter fight, but all was in vain.  The prison commander was beheaded.  Many Swiss Guards were hanged or killed.   The old man says he thinks that now rebellions will burst out all over the kingdom.  The Duke de la Rochefocauld had the honor and the misfortune of waking the King up.  Sidonie wants to know:  "What will happen to us?"

Sidonie's close friend says the Duchess made out alright for herself.  She went from being a country bumpkin to the Queen's favorite.  The friend says the Duchess is a whore.  She wants to tell Sidonie a lot more gossip, but Sidonie says if she doesn't stop it, she will leave. 

Sidonie looks out the window and sees the King walking out onto the courtyard.  His brothers follow him.  The two friends decide to go out to the courtyard to take a closer look. They run over to the Swiss Guards at a gate.  Sidonie is allowed to pass because she told Louison that she would lend the expensive clock to her for one night if she would get Gustav to let her pass.  Louison pushes Sidonie passed the guards who let her pass by without any fuss.  She goes over behind some drapes where she listens to the conversation within. 

Sidonie tells Alice that she's scared for the Queen.  She brings some food from the kitchen for Mr. Moreau.  He says he's upset because things are happening too fast now.  Sidonie says what upsets her is the malice concerning the Queen.  Moreau tells her: "Your love for the Queen makes you too indulgent as to her caprices.  Gabrielle d Polignac is a folly which cost her dearly.  She's yet to finish paying for it."

Moreau walks with Sidonie and he is frequently stopped because people think he knows a great deal of what's going on.  One man asks:  "What of the rioters planning to attack Versailles?"  Moreau tells M. de Jolivet to make his own plans for what he is going to do if this happens.  The man responds with:  "I have to organize our defense."  Sidonie now tells Moreau that she is going to stay here in the busy hallway.  Moreau says that's an absurd idea.  Sidonie says she knows that if she goes to her room, she will not be able to sleep anyway.  She leans against a wall and falls to sleep.

She is awakened by a loud bang.  She goes over to a group of men talking.  One of them has the published list of the 286 heads that must be cut off to bring about necessary reform.  The first two names are the Queen and the King's brother the Count d'Artois.  After that comes the Duchess de Polignac and the Princess de Lamballe.  He then says that he is the 21st head to roll.  Sidonie walks away from this terrible news. 

Paolo comes to see Sidonie.  She asks him what does he want.  He says she wants it too.  So she takes him into a room and they start pawing at each other.  She asks him if he prefers Gabrielle de Polignac?  Someone calls out for Sidonie.  She tells Paolo to stay here.  If he shows himself, she will never see him again.  It's Alice who called out for Sidonie.  She says that the Queen's page boy is looking for Sidonie.  Sidonie says:  "Good God!  I kept the Queen waiting!" 

Sidonie runs down the halls to the Queen's chambers.  When she enters the room the Queen doesn't say anything to her.  So Sidonie curtsies and then backs out of the room.  Madame Campan reproaches Sidonie for not being in her room.  She says this was gross misconduct. 

The Queen calls for Sidonie. She asks her assistant to plot out the best route from Versailles to Metz [206 miles east of Paris passing through Reims and near Verdun to Metz.  Metz is near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg.]

A servant announces the arrival of L'abbé Cornu de la Balivière.  He brings the Queen some disturbing pamphlet.  She says that's why she's leaving for Metz.  Count Esterhazy with his regiment will escort her.  Once in Metz they will gather troops and march on Paris.  She adds that Metz has a powerful citadel.  The abbé says that the Duke de Bourbon fled on horseback disguised as a groom.  She excuses the man.  She rests her head on her right hand complaining that she is so tired.  She tells Sidonie to close the door and come closer to her. 

The Queen asks Sidonie if she has ever been attracted by a woman to the point that you suffer in her absence?  Sidonie says she knows the woman the Queen is referring to.  The Queen goes so far as to say that she is a prisoner of the woman.  Sedonie offers to try to get Gabrielle to come see the Queen. 

Sidonie pushes by Madame Tournon who says that she thinks the Queen is evil for having made her mistress lose her head.  Sedonie replies:  "It's the opposite, Madame Tournon."   She then goes to get Gabrielle in her bed.  There Gabrielle lies naked except for a sheet partially covering her body.  Sedonie pulls the sheet from her body slowly.  [Full nudity.] 

When Sidonie returns without Gabrielle, the Queen scolds her for not having mapped out the route to Metz.  She doesn't even mention Gabrielle, although Sidonie did tell her that she could not awaken Gabrielle. 

Versailles, July 16th, 1789.  Sidonie learns that the French Guard has deserted.  The Swiss Guard has also left.  Sidonie says that the Queen has fled for Metz.  Alice tells her that's false.  The Queen is still here. 

Sidonie goes to see Louison, but her room has been vacated.  And, evidently, Louison took the clock with her that Sidonie had lent to her. 

The King and Queen and the cabinet show themselves to the staff.  The King leaves.  Gabrielle comes to the Queen and they touch foreheads together.  Then arm in arm they walk away from everyone

The King has decided to stay at Versailles.  A man tells the staff:  "Gentlemen, we must resign ourselves to a new dynasty.  Louis XVI is no longer free to decide.  He is hostage to the insurrection." 

The Queen has withdrawn to her apartments.  And Sidonie must entertain her with a book. 

A servant removes the Queen's huge wig.  She mutters about how she so wanted to leave Versailles. "I've never been so mortified in my life."  Gabrielle is in the room.  The Queen tells her:  "Had the King agreed, you and I would have been saved."   The Queen fawns over Gabrielle.  She comments:  "I wish I could have you always by my side."

Madame Campan and Sidonie are watching and listening to all of this, since the two royal women seem oblivious of everyone except themselves.  The Queen apologizes to Gabrielle.  "Because of me, the people want your head."   She asks Gabrielle to leave France.  Gabrielle says she will leave because she must.  Gabrielle leaves.  The Queen starts crying.  The King now comes in for a visit.  He says the new Mayor of Paris said that the people now don't just want bread, but power.  The King says he must go to Paris.  The Queen asks him not to go there.  "A fanatic can assassinate you."  [Sidonie listens to all of this conversation.]

Another female assistant rushes into Sidonie's room and hugs her.  She tells Sidonie that her mistress hanged herself.  Sidonie goes with her friend.  They hide from the Queen who is knocking on the doors of the servants without any luck.  The servants are stealing things and leaving the palace.  Sidonie asks the friend if she knew about Alice's upcoming marriage?  The young woman says of course.  Sidonie says:  "I'm told nothing."  The other young lady says:  "You tell us nothing."  They know virtually nothing about Sidonie. 

Versailles, July 17th, 1789.  The King kisses his wife and children and gets into a carriage to go to Paris.  Madame Bertin comments:  "God knows if they'll ever reunite."

Sidonie sees Gabrielle and her husband dressed as regular people.  They are going to try to get to Switzerland.

Sidonie goes into see the Queen.  The Queen tells her that she has written a speech to be given before the Assembly.  She, however, has written only one sentence of the speech.  She tells Sidonie that a carriage is leaving for Switzerland and Sidonie will go with it.   Sidonie will escape with the Duke and Duchess de Polignac, but Sidonie is to go dressed as Gabrielle.  Sidonie speaks up as says she is being used as bait.  The Queen replies:  "An ugly word for a pretty mouth!"  A tear drops from Sidonie's left eye.  Sidonie will wear the green dress belonging to Gabrielle.  Madame Bertin undresses Sidonie.  (Full nudity)  Then they put a brunette wig on Sidonie.  The Queen tells Sidonie to tell Gabrielle that the Queen says she will never forget Gabrielle.  The Queen kisses Sidonie on the lips. 

Sidonie goes downstairs and goes off in the carriage.  At night they stop for awhile.  People are curious to know who's in the carriage.  A soldier checks out Sidonie's safe-conduct pass.  He is really curious about Gabrielle and her husband but Sidonie covers for them. 

Sidonie thinks to herself.  She is Sidonie Laborde and both her parents are dead.  "I was the Queen's reader.  I obey the Queen.  Soon I will be far from Versailles.  Soon I will be no one."

 

The Royal Family of France is in grave danger.  And if the Queen is in trouble, then the Queen's reader Sidonie is in trouble.  Sidonie is very devoted to the Queen and she will do anything to please her.  The other women staff criticize her for being too devoted to the Queen.  Sidonie was with the Queen at Versailles for her last three days of work.  We first learn of trouble with the attack on the Bastille prison.  The staff gets very worried and there is a scramble to find out what is really going on.  There is a lot of gossip and rumor because everyone is so on edge.  They are worried what will happen to them if the King and Queen are taken or go away.  Sidonie feels the same fears as everyone else, but she stays absolutely loyal to the Queen.  And then the Queen disappoints Sidonie and her life is put in danger.  That sobers Sidonie up quite a bit.  

In the film, the Queen was shown as having a lesbian relationship with the Duchess.  Wikipedia says: "Marie Antoinette also began to form deep friendships with various ladies in her retinue. Most noted were the sensitive and "pure" widow, the princesse de Lamballe, whom she appointed as Superintendent of her Household, and the fun-loving, down-to-earth Yolande de Polastron, duchesse de Polignac, who eventually formed the cornerstone of the Queen's inner circle of friends (Société Particulière de la Reine). The duchesse de Polignac later became the Governess of the royal children (Gouvernante des Enfants de France), and was a friend of both Marie Antoinette and Louis. The closeness of the Dauphine's friendship with these ladies, influenced by various popular publications which promoted such friendships, later caused accusations of lesbianism to be lodged against these women".   

I enjoyed the movie.  All three main character actresses were very good:  Léa Seydoux (as Agathe-Sidonie Laborde), Diane Kruger (as Marie Antoinette) and Virginie Ledoyen (as La duchesse Gabrielle de Polignac).

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

 

 

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