Berlinale 2012 Diary: French period epic opens festival

The 62nd Berlinale opens with the ironic historical epic Les adieux à la Reine (Farewell My Queen) by Benoït Jacquot at the opulent Friedrichstadt-Palast. A France and Spain co-production, the film is based on Chantal Thomas’ award-winning novel of the same name and portrays the early days of the French Revolution as seen through the eyes of the servants at Versailles.

Synopsis: July 1789. There’s growing disquiet at the court of King Louis XVI: the people are defiant and the country is on the brink of revolution. Behind the scenes at the royal palaces emergency plans are being made. Although nobody believes that this spells the end of the established order everyone is talking of escape, including Queen Marie Antoinette and her entourage. One of Marie Antoinette’s ladies-in-waiting is Sidonie Laborde who, as the Queen’s reader, is a member of the monarch’s inner circle. Concerned that her escape might fail, the queen gives instructions for the girl to step into her carriage dressed in the queen’s clothes while the queen herself is to escape from the palace unseen at night. At first Sidonie is proud to have such an honour bestowed upon her – but she soon realises that her mistress’ request has nothing to do with her affection for her.

The film stars Léa Seydoux, Diane Kruger, Virginie Ledoyen, Xavier Beauvois and Noemie Lvovsky.