Marie Antoinette Film Tie-InSo, I am going to show my Grade 12 students the film Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst as a kind of finish to the study of this novel. What I am thinking of getting...

Marie Antoinette Film Tie-In

So, I am going to show my Grade 12 students the film Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst as a kind of finish to the study of this novel. What I am thinking of getting them to do is compare and contrast the presentation of the aristocracy in both texts and discuss differences. Clearly Dickens is a bit harsh on the aristocracy, whereas, in my opinion, the film presents us with a more sympathetic portrayal of Marie Antoinette and perhaps the aristocracy as a whole. Has any one else tried this? Any other ideas you can give me to see if this would work?

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with scarletpimpernel regarding The Scarlet Pimpernel (forgive how silly that sounds, please).  I always show the opening scene of that movie right at the beginning of our reading and a few other parts at various times throughout the novel. (I rarely show a movie in its entirety.)  I did see Marie Antoinette and thought it was awful, though it did do what you intend, i think, which is to show the other side of life behind the walls of Versailles.  Every time I go there I'm struck with its opulence and the stark contrast to the village of St. Antoine.  No wonder they wanted to drag her out of there.  I really don't think watching this movie would add much to the experience, but that's the beauty of teaching and different perspectives.  I'll be interested to hear how you feel it went and what new insights your students may have gained. 

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I haven't seen this film, but it never hurts to give students both sides of the story and have them learn to think for themselves.  I will never forget my students' response when we traveled to Versailles two summers ago and the tour guide portrayed Marie Antoinette as a wonderful mother and caring ruler who never uttered the words, "Let them eat cake."  They were so surprised, and were much more interested when the guide began the story of how the people rushed the castle and literally pulled her out of her bedroom to be dragged to her untimely end.  We were much disappointed at not having the time to see her Hamlet where she dressed as a milk maiden and pretended to be anything but what she was.  It was certainly a different view of a lady history has painted as cold and heartless.

Let us know how it goes!

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I haven't tried Marie Antoinette with Tale before, but I have used The Scarlet Pimpernel (1980s version with Jane Seymour) to contrast Dickens' view of the aristocracy with a more favorable view. My students love the film, especially the disguises, wit, and romance. It's a bit more difficult film to get your hands on, but my local library has it, and I ordered my own copy from

I think your idea is interesting and would like to hear how it turns out.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If the modern film resembles the 1938 one with Norma Shearer and Tyrone Power, it portrays Marie Antoinette as a caring and very protective mother and respectful wife.  Her courageous attempts to protect her children are very poignant in this old film.

Shearer's portrayal of Marie Antoinette reminds us that without aritocracies there would be no patrons for the arts.  For, it was the aristocracy which supported the poor artists, the poets, and the literary writers.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the balance would be interesting.  I would also ask my students why Dickens did not choose to be balanced.  After all, the book is supposed to be a lesson to the aristocrats in Britain.  If Dickens had been more sympathetic to the aristocracy, then he would have given them excuses to not take the book so seriously.  In short, he wanted to scare the pants off them!


q30r9m3 | Student

Then again, I do not think it would work that well, because of all the language.

q30r9m3 | Student

I think that would work great since they are both from the French Revolution and Mary Atoinette was the Queen at that time.

epollock | Student

I have never shown a film in class. It is always for after-school. I don't think a film is warranted for other views unless it is a documentary. Otherwise, it sets a bad precedent that you have to watch movies as some form of additional support to a great book is necessary. I guess without a good film version, there is no reason to read anything.

Read the study guide:
A Tale of Two Cities

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question