The Affair of the Necklace

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The Affair of the Necklace
Affair of the necklace.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Charles Shyer
Produced by Charles Shyer
Andrew Kosove
Broderick Johnson
Redmond Morris
Written by John Sweet
Narrated by Brian Cox
Starring Hilary Swank
Jonathan Pryce
Simon Baker
Adrien Brody
Joely Richardson
Christopher Walken
Music by David Newman
Cinematography Ashley Rowe
Editing by David Moritz
Studio Alcon Entertainment
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • November 30, 2001 (2001-11-30)
Running time 118 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $471,210

The Affair of the Necklace is a 2001 American historical drama film directed by Charles Shyer. The screenplay by John Sweet is based on what became known as the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, an incident that helped fuel the French populace's disillusionment with the monarchy and, among other causes, eventually led to the French Revolution.[1] The film received negative reviews from critics, but the set and costume design were widely praised.[2]

Plot[edit]

Jeanne de Saint-Rémy de Valois, orphaned at an early age, is determined to reclaim her royal title and the home taken from her family when she was a child. When she is rebuffed by Marie Antoinette and fails to achieve her goal through legal channels, she joins forces with the arrogant, well-connected gigolo Rétaux de Villette and her own wayward, womanizing husband Nicholas. They concoct a plan to earn her enough money to purchase the property.

King Louis XV had commissioned Parisian jewellers Boehmer and Bassenge to create an opulent 2,800 carats (560 g), 647-diamond necklace to present to his mistress Madame du Barry, but the king died before it was completed. Hoping to recover the high cost of the necklace, its creators try to persuade Marie Antoinette to purchase it. Knowing its history, she declines.

Jeanne approaches debauched libertine Cardinal Louis de Rohan and introduces herself as a confidante of the Queen. For years the Cardinal has yearned to regain the Queen's favor and acquire the position of Prime Minister of France, and when he is reassured by occultist Count Cagliostro that Jeanne is legitimate, he allows himself to be seduced by her promise to intervene on his behalf. He begins to correspond with the Queen and is unaware that his letters to her are intercepted and the Queen's responses are forgeries intended to manipulate him. The tone of the letters become very intimate. The cardinal becomes more and more convinced that Marie Antoinette is in love with him, and he becomes ardently enamored of her.

Jeanne allegedly arranges a meeting between the two in the garden at the Palace of Versailles. Portraying the Queen is Nicole Leguay d'Oliva, an actress bearing some resemblance to her. Heavily cloaked, with her face in the shadows, she agrees to forget their past disagreements. The Cardinal believes his indiscretions have been forgiven and he once again is in the Queen's good favor.

Jeanne advises the Cardinal the Queen has decided to purchase the necklace but, not wanting to offend the populace by openly buying such an expensive item, she wishes him to do so on her behalf, with a promise to reimburse him for the cost by the Feast of the Assumption. The Cardinal gladly agrees and presents the necklace to Rétaux de Villette, believing him to be an emissary from the Queen. Nicholas de Lamotte sells some of the diamonds, and Jeanne uses the profits to buy her family home.

The Cardinal begins to panic when Jeanne disappears and his correspondence with the Queen comes to an abrupt end. His concern is put to rest by an invitation to visit the palace on the Feast of the Assumption, at which time he assumes he will be repaid in full and named Prime Minister. Instead, King Louis XVI, who has been made aware of his machinations by Minister Breteuil, has him imprisoned in the Bastille. Soon to follow are everyone else involved in the plot. A trial finds the Cardinal, Count Cagliostro, and Nicole Leguay d'Oliva innocent of all charges. Rétaux de Villette is found guilty and banished from France. Jeanne is found guilty and whipped and branded before being imprisoned; she later escapes to London where she publishes her memoirs and regales the locals with her tales. Eventually Marie Antoinette, assumed to be a key player in the affair by an increasingly angry and restless populace, meets her fate on the guillotine. We learn via an epilogue Jeanne died after falling from her hotel room window and was rumored to have been killed by royalists.

Production notes[edit]

Filming locations included the Palace of Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Alincourt, Compiègne, and Paris in France, and St. Barbara Church, Lednice, and Valtice in the Czech Republic. Interiors were filmed at the Barrandov Studios in Prague.

The soundtrack included "Movement I: Mercy" by Alanis Morissette and Jonathan Elias, "Le Réjouissance - Allegro" and "Allegro from Sonata" by Georg Friedrich Händel, "Beatus vir" by Claudio Monteverdi, "The Four Seasons, Summer - First Movement" by Antonio Vivaldi, "Aire A6 in G Minor" by William Lawes, "Exsultate, Jubilate", and "Requiem Aeternam, Dies Irae" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and "Heidenröslein" by Franz Schubert.[3]

Cast[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

The Affair of the Necklace earned negative reviews from critics, with most of the criticism focusing on Hilary Swank's performance. The costume design and stylized period setting however were widely praised. The film currently holds a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 61 reviews and holds a Metacritic score of 42 based on 22 reviews. [4]

CNN Entertainment praised Hilary Swank and Charles Shyer's contributions to the film, writing, "Writer/director/producer Charles Shyer is known for such lightweight comedies as Baby Boom and Father of the Bride, but he's made a major change with this lavish period piece, shot in Prague on a modest $30 million budget. He also took somewhat of a chance with Oscar winner Hilary Swank in the leading role. Her graphic portrayal of Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry (1999) gave no hint as to whether or not she could pull off a 18th-century drama complete with feathered hats and tight corsets. She can." [5]

Kevin Thomas of The L.A. Times wrote, "Shyer and Sweet bring consistent clarity and ever-increasing depth to the playing out of Jeanne's bold scheming and single-minded resolve; a tone of brisk wit gives way effortlessly to poignancy and ultimately tragedy."[6]

Richard Roeper found the film to be very entertaining and was willing to overlook the script's historical liberties, stating "I'm sure that it's sort of a 'Fractured Fairy Tale' version of the real events that happened, but the fact that it was inspired by real-life events made me enjoy it all the more."

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design and the Satellite Award for Best Costume Design, but lost to Moulin Rouge! in both instances.[7]

Differences between the film and the real affair[edit]

  • In the film, it is shown that Jeanne and her family had a family estate. In reality, Jeanne and her family were very poor, living in the slums of Paris.[8][9][10]
  • The Valois family were descended from Henry de Saint Rémy, an illegitimate son of Henry II.[11][12]
  • Jeanne had two siblings; an older brother, Jacques, and a younger sister Marie-Anne. In a deleted scene, Jeanne is shown with her unnamed baby brother.[13]
  • In the film, Marie Antoinette explains that Madame du Barry, Louis XV's mistress was recently banished from the French court. In fact, du Barry was banished from Versailles in 1774 shortly before the king died from smallpox, and the necklace was presented to Antoinette in 1778, and again in 1781, she refused the necklace both times.[14][15]
  • Jeanne was in fact a con-artist, who sought to use the necklace to gain wealth, power, and possibly royal patronage. In the film, Jeanne used the diamonds as profit to buy her family estate.[16][17]
  • Nicolas de la Motte actually sold the diamonds in London. He did not sell any in Paris.[18]
  • Jeanne did escape to London, disguised as a boy, where she died from falling from a hotel window in 1791. Some speculate that she was trying to hide from tax payers, while others say it was an act of revenge from French royalists.[19]
  • Count Cagliostro left France for England after he was acquitted. He later went to Rome, where he was accused and imprisoned for being a forger. He died at the Fortess of San Leo in 1795.[20][21]
  • Cardinal de Rohan's acquittal received popular enthusiasm as a victory over the royal court, partially the Queen. He was expelled from his position as grand almoner and he exiled himself to his abbey of Chaise-Dieu. After the revolution, he left for Strasbourg in the Holy Roman Empire. He died in Ettenheim in 1805.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/161488/Affair-of-the-Diamond-Necklace
  2. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0242252/awards?ref_=tt_awd
  3. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0242252/soundtrack
  4. ^ http://www.metacritic.com/movie/the-affair-of-the-necklace
  5. ^ CNN Entertainment Review: 'Affair of the Necklace' is a gem at the Wayback Machine (archived November 30, 2001). Accessed 2012-08-29.
  6. ^ McNamara, Mary. "Los Angeles Times review". Latimes.com. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  7. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0242252/awards?ref_=tt_awd
  8. ^ http://www.joslinhall.com/diamond_necklace_affair.htm
  9. ^ The Story of the Diamond Necklace, by Henry Vizetelly, originally published in 1867
  10. ^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/161488/Affair-of-the-Diamond-Necklace
  11. ^ http://www.audcent.com/audcent4/StRemy.htm
  12. ^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/161488/Affair-of-the-Diamond-Necklace
  13. ^ http://www.audcent.com/audcent4/StRemy.htm
  14. ^ Marie Antoniette, by Stefan Zweig, originally published in 1932
  15. ^ The Story of the Diamond Necklace, by Henry Vizetelly, originally published in 1867
  16. ^ http://www.joslinhall.com/diamond_necklace_affair.htm
  17. ^ The Story of the Diamond Necklace, by Henry Vizetelly, originally published in 1867
  18. ^ http://www.joslinhall.com/diamond_necklace_affair.htm
  19. ^ Marie Antoniette, by Stefan Zweig, originally published in 1932
  20. ^ Marie Antoniette, by Stefan Zweig, originally published in 1932
  21. ^ The Story of the Diamond Necklace, by Henry Vizetelly, originally published in 1867
  22. ^ The Story of the Diamond Necklace, by Henry Vizetelly, originally published in 1867

External links[edit]