Van Dyke skips the “handover” at Schuttern, where French noblewomen, led by the Comtesse de Noailles, helped Marie Antoinette shed her Austrian clothing and replace it with French court attire. Coppola includes this ritual, which demonstrated that even Marie Antoinette’s body was no longer her own but the property of France. Mistaking the handover for a personal welcome, Marie Antoinette hugged the comtesse (played by Judy Davis in Marie Antoinette). As she does in the film, de Noailles stiffened at Marie Antoinette’s embrace, stressing the symbolic, public nature of the ceremony (Lever 18). Even though he is leery of almost every aspect of Marie Antoinette, Zevin acknowledges Coppola’s formalist eye when he says: “There is something painterly in [her] style” (33). A blend of composition and content is especially striking in the shot of Marie Antoinette exiting the handover pavilion. Centered, to show that forest surrounds it, the pavilion’s dark interior is lit, improbably, by a crystal chandelier. In this temporary outpost of Versailles, culture ignores nature. Symmetry signals Marie Antoinette’s entry into the pattern of the French court. A triumph of artifice, the new dauphine emerges and pauses, perfectly framed in the doorway, while guards stand at attention on each side of the draped enclosure. Marie Antoinette’s Austrian ladies, her playful dog, her hair ribbon, and her looser gown have been left behind, scraps of her little-girl identity. A curled and corseted confection, she has been processed into a sexy French fashion plate, fit to be seen and desired by the dauphin.
Royal Portraits in Hollywood: Filming the Lives of Queens