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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Farewell, My Queen

March 6th, 2013

Farewell, My Queen - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Farewell, My Queen opened last July and earned more than $1 million in limited release. That's impressive compared to most limited releases, and it is doubly so for a foreign language film. Did it deserve this run? And if so, do the DVD and Blu-ray live up to the film?

The Movie

Farewell, My Queen takes place in the late 18th century in France during the times of the revolution. While the peasants are revolting, the life in the palace remains calm, for the most part. We see the lives of the royalty through the eyes of Sidonie Laborde, a handmaid of Marie-Antoinette, who reads to the Queen. Marie-Antoinette is actually very kind to Sidonie, offering her coffee, which is a rare treat in that day, and helping Sidonie deal with her mosquito bites. It's like they are best friends, rather than an absolute monarch and her servant. We also see Sidonie interact with the servants in the palace, with them drinking and dancing and talking about rumors.

The next day, there's a commotion in the palace. The servants know the King was woken up at two in the morning, but they don't know why. There are rumors, including illness or food poisoning, but they know nothing on concrete. Later some of the rumors become more political and the Bastille is heard mentioned. Sidonie does learn of the Bastille being stormed, which is of course the start of the French Revolution. The members of the palace react differently. Some panic, thinking the royalty is about to end. Others go about their business as if nothing changed. Marie-Antoinette, for instance, still wants an embroidered Dahlia for her dress. Sidonie is very curious and learns as much as she can, mostly from Nicolas Moreau, and grows increasing concerned over what may happen to her Queen. Even when it is suggested she should leave the palace for her own safety, she stays for her Queen. Even when it is clear the Queen is preparing to leave and some of the palace residents begin to turn on the King and Queen, Sidonie remains loyal. But will her loyalty be rewarded?

The final days of Marie-Antoinette is the subject of a number of films. However, this film does stand out by focusing on a simple servant rather than the powerful people at the palace. The change of the point of view helps the movie immensely. The film also benefits from great casting. Lea Seydoux is excellent as Sidonie, bringing the right emotional level to the role. Her character is clearly infatuated with Marie-Antoinette, but she is also well aware of her place in society. Diane Kruger is not only great as the queen. She is often kind with Sidonie, even flirty, but in a moment if something else catches her attention, she becomes entirely dismissive. Also, there are some curious coincidences between Diane Kruger, including their ages and in both cases, German was / is their native language. Additionally, the film is technically great and fans of costume dramas should love the production design, the costumes and hairstyles, etc.

The Extras

Extras include two interview featurettes, the first with Benoit Jacquot and Kent Jones, while the other involves much of the cast as well, plus it includes some behind-the-scenes footage. There's only two featurettes, but they run for more than 50 minutes and this is better than most foreign language films.

The technical presentation is good, but not great. It has good details and the colors are solid, but in neither case is the video wonderful. There are many dark scenes lit only by candlelight, but this doesn't hurt the video. The audio is solid, but uncomplicated. The dialogue is clear and there's enough activity in the surround sound speakers to not feel barren, but like the video, it is not a movie you can use to show off you home theater system.

The Blu-ray costs $5 or 25% more than the DVD, which is a good price for this type of film.

The Verdict

Farewell, My Queen is absolutely worth checking out if you are a fan of costume dramas in general or of the story of Marie-Antoinette in particular. There are not a huge amount of extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray, but they are still worth buying over just renting.

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Filed under: Video Review, Les adieux à la reine, Diane Kruger, Michel Robin, Lea Seydoux, Benoit Jacquot