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Years back, when Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, a luscious, insouciant, royal-friendly if not entirely pro-royal biopic had its press screening at Cannes, it was booed. This puzzled those of us seduced by the spectacle, and research revealed that many objected to the film because it painted the French monarch in too sympathetic a light. No screen time had been spared to show the plight of ordinary people, those who suffered and starved during Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s reign. For shame!
Writer-director Pierre Schoeller’s panoramic-scaled cinematic history lesson One Nation, One King (Un Peuple et Son Roi) might have been the kind of supposedly inclusive film that Marie Antoinette haters would have preferred. Every substratum of society gets some representation, from the starving denizens of Paris, up through the debaters in the National Assembly, on to the king (Laurent Lafitte) and queen (Maëlia Gentil), seen at key moments as they are turfed out of Versailles and later sent to the guillotine. That said, rather more time is spent with humbler folk, such as glass-blowing revolutionary Uncle (Olivier Gourmet), a feisty washerwoman (Adèle Haenel) named Françoise, and a reformed chicken thief and arthouse stud muffin, Basile (Gaspard Ulliel), with whom Françoise falls in love. Just for merde and giggles, Schoeller throws in big stars Louis Garrel as Robespierre and Denis Lavant as a splendidly seedy Marat, enhancing an already stellar cast with long, declamatory speeches to recite.
Sadly, the whole assemblage is bit of a bum-numbing bore, both overwritten and sketchy at the same time, as it strains to namecheck key historical moments and distribute attention equally in such a way that none of the characters develop more than half a dimension. That said, it does look handsome, with a generous budget spent on period details, costumes and extras, and not a euro spared in the lighting budget so everyone is backlit and beautiful, no matter how poor or scruffy they’re supposed to be.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: One Nation, One King review – bum-numbing history lesson for Marie Antoinette haters | Film