Marie Antoinette is a film based on the life of the last queen of France, Marie Antoinette, and her hardships in her arranged marriage and reign. It begins with the preparations for her marriage, and follows her journey as she obtains her place in the royal court, and eventually becomes queen of France. Of the many adversities which Marie Antoinette encounters, the greatest becomes the French Revolution, and the burden of France’s national debt.
The movie begins by introducing the marriage between Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria, and the dauphin of France, Louis XVI. The purpose of this marriage, both in the movie and historically, was to reinforce the alliance between Austria and France. Marie and Louis are expected to consummate their marriage, as Marie’s place in the royal court was not secure without a pregnancy to guarantee an heir to the throne. Much to the dismay of Marie Antoinette’s mother, Empress Maria Theresa, the marriage was not consummated until 7 years later.
Though the timeline in the movie is fairly loose and nondescript, it does indicate that this event took place long after their marriage. The movie displays some patriarchal values in this as Marie is blamed for her husband’s lack of interest, and her inability to “inspire” him, despite the fact that Louis had performance issues. After Marie and Louis give birth to their first child, Marie makes the same statement that witnesses have confirmed: “Poor little girl. You are not what was desired, but you are no less dear to me”. This also adds to the patriarchal values, as the female the Marie birthed was seen as lesser, and seemingly worthless to the French. A boy was preferred, as he would have made an heir to the throne and a potential king of France, as well as cemented Franco-Austrian relations. There is also a theme of family used as a business arrangement.
Marie’s marriage is for the sake of diplomacy, and her children seem to be meant only to fulfill one purpose for France. Later, Marie does give birth to a boy, but the movie does not include any more children beyond this, despite Marie really having 4 children. This inaccuracy was most likely for the sake of simplicity. The additional children were not crucial to the storyline, and therefore excluded in order to condense it. Though this may have been the reason, the movie would have been much better had it been more in depth, and including Marie’s additional children would have opened up other aspects of the storyline, such as her meaningful relationship with her lover, Count Fersen. He is even rumored to have fathered 2 of her children, but the film only briefly touched upon their relationship, which is an important point of Marie Antoinette’s character.
After the death of the king, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are crowned king and queen of France at only 19 years old. There is a small flaw, as the movie implies Marie was 18 at the time of the beginning of her reign. There isn’t a clear reason for this inaccuracy, but it may have been that the primary focus was the story, as opposed to the timeline. Louis XVI was crowned king as France was dealing with a debt crisis. The movie voices that the American rebels requested help in their revolution against Britain, and King Louis XVI agrees to aid them, with only the consequence of a small tax raise.
This assistance was provided historically, and prompted excitement for the republic ideas, which stemmed from the American Revolution, and rejected the treatment that France was imposing upon its people. There is later a meeting which addresses France’s growing debt crisis, and debates the continuance of French aid in the American revolution, since their participation was costing far more than intended. The king decides to continue, and taxes continue to rise, especially for those of lower class, which shows a theme of unfair treatment of the lower classes, which is displayed throughout history, from the caste system, in which the lower classes endure awful treatment all of their lives, to the industrial revolution, where the lower classes were forced to live in dangerous conditions, and lacked adequate wages. Ironically, a point of debate was the effect of supporting a cause in which the people “rejected their sovereign”, since the French Revolution drew from the enlightenment of the American Revolution.
The French, as rivals of the British Empire, decided to continue their aid in order to showcase their strength, a display of nationalism at their own cost. Despite all its irony, the continued support and its reasons in the movie are entirely accurate and consistent with its historical counterparts. The film simply neglects to mention a few of the consequences and nuances of the French Revolution, such as social upheaval, the abolishment of legal rights and slavery, and feudalism.
The consequences of France’s predicament grow with their debt crisis. Marie Antoinette concerns herself with fashion, and setting trends while an impoverished France starved. While this is accurate, the movie nicknames her “Queen of Debt”, whereas she was really nicknamed “Madame Deficit”. The people of France turned all blame to Marie because she was Austrian, and she liked spending money, as well as gambling. The movie even covers the rumors which were spread about Marie declaring “Let them eat cake!” after being informed that the people of France were starving, only further turning people against her.
As the French Revolution gain momentum, the Bastille is stormed. Everyone of royal blood was urged to leave, just as the royal family was forced into Paris. In the movie, Marie and Louis refuse to abandon their kingdom, but it is not said that this actually took place. The people begin to riot, and only when the king and queen fear for their lives do they decide to flee. There are a few discrepancies that take place as their escape unfolds. For one, the king and queen really escaped in the middle of the night, under cover of darkness. They were also aided by the queen’s lover, Count Fersen. The movie shows the couple escaping with their family in early morning, and no mention of Count Fersen’s involvement is made.
The timing of their escape was most likely for cinematic effect, as it did not really affect the storyline, and the exclusion of Count Fersen was likely to keep it simple, as that would have added more depth to the complex relationships of Marie Antoinette. The movie also implies that they are safe and void of danger after their escape because it neglects to continue the narrative into the later execution of the two, which was an act of regicide. This may not be an inaccuracy, as the king and queen were not found out and arrested until later, and only years later, during the reign of terror, did they fall victim to the guillotine where they were beheaded.