Farewell, My Queen by Benoit Jacquot
I read “Farewell, My Queen” when it was published and I immediately thought it would make an interesting film. I even said this to author Chantal Thomas when I met her. But it was only years later that a producer proposed that I work out concretely what appeared to me as being not just a good idea, but also a wish come true.
I believe that the principles which guide the book “Farewell”, if we hew to them for an eventual film adaptation, allow us to imagine original, rarely seen perspectives.
The concentration of time and space, these days and nights during which the world of Versailles splinters brutally, like a shipwreck. The rigorous bias towards the young woman, to follow during this time and in this place the Queen’s reader, to only hear, see and know what she is given to know and feel as the hours pass and peril approaches.
The Queen defines the life of this reader in both function and emotion, like a magnetic pole that attracts or repels. For the young reader, the Queen is a kind of idol, whether she bestows herself or secludes herself, first according to her whim and then, gradually, pressed by the invading signs of an accelerated History at work.
The film moves at the rhythm of the reader’s heartbeat, more and more agitated, as disaster spreads from hallways to galleries, from bedrooms to salons, from the cellars to the rafters and rests, at ease, strangely languid, in the presence of the Queen. We aim to avoid the anecdotal, the decorative, the tired vignettes that don’t hold any interest for us anymore. Rather than an improbable reconstitution, or one guided by fantasy, we allow ourselves the means–lightness, mobility–to create the lost and panicked world that Sidonie goes through, always moving closer to or further away from the being who is her center, the Queen.
We made the film as if it was a documentary on this period, aiming to give the sensation that that part of the past becomes present, a present lived “for real” for the duration of the film, for the audience as well as Sidonie.
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