Jean de Barry. Photo: Stephanie Brancheau
Was it true love between King Louis XV and his favorite mistress, Jeanne du Barry? Says Maywin, director and translator of this historical drama.
Is it a typical French reaction to portray a historical relationship that seems built on power as a love affair – that between King Louis XV and his favorite mistress, Jeanne du Barry – or is it a personal reflection of the actor/director Maiwin?
Her defense of her ex-husband Luc Besson, a man she married at 16 (he was 32 at the time), was often met with scorn. An unbalanced relationship, judged by the outside world. The similarity to the relationship between the King and Du Barry, played by Maiwin himself, is of course no coincidence. Johnny Depp, who was accused and acquitted of the charges against him, also does not play the king. In this sense, it is Jane de Barry, depending on how you look at things, an amusing or tasteless response from the director. Because what the film discusses is that there was love, not abuse, between Du Barry and Louis XV.
Maybe that was true. Maïwenn plays Du Barry as an uninhibited free spirit who is nonetheless well-read: she was fascinated by erotic stories from an early age. With this unbridled energy she manages to attract the attention of Louis. The film presents Du Barry as someone who knows exactly what she wants and consciously chooses her relationship with the king.
Talking about freedom and unfettered: for a film about an issue that shook the French monarchy to its foundations, Jane de Barry Completely chaste. This shouldn’t be a problem – an exciting film can be boring and a chaste film can be exciting – but there is more to it than that. Repeated attention to the ridiculous steps people have to take once their encounter with the king is over becomes a lame joke. Although it gains some importance later in the film.
More problematically, the film initially portrays Jeanne as a force of nature, as someone who does not care about etiquette at Versailles. But in the second half, with the arrival of Marie Antoinette of Austria as the future husband of the heir to the throne, all her fighting spirit suddenly seems to have disappeared. The film then devotes a disproportionate amount of attention to the question of whether Marie Antoinette will say a word to du Barry – and thus grant her permission to remain at Versailles. It’s all too easy to push Du Barry’s intelligence and freedom aside here. Why did the king not expect this situation?
Nor is it a punishment to be able to enjoy the bizarre excesses of the palace for over an hour and a half, in a film concerned with space and beauty as well as the secret ports of the Palace of Versailles. But was it love? Well in a world Jane de Barry.