Marie Antoinettei manages to cast the French Revolution, and by its proxy Revolution generally, as what it actually is : the monstrous rebellion of all that is base and despicable in mankind against all that is right, noble and just.ii Because with or without a god, an eternal life of the soul, the fiction of divine providence and all the rest of that jazz, in any practical differend scum will always prevail - nature thus works and in no other way.
And, as the story of the film recounts and as the story of the world confirms, that rebellion of the scum can only be followed by further division of the victorious scum, in scum-as-it-was and scummier-scum-than-before, which leads of course to a new revolution, which leads of course to a new low and further progress in scumminess, soon to be followed by scum-even-scummier-than-the-scummiest scum, and so again, ad infinitum. So nature works, always towards decay.
Amusingly enough, revolution always sees itself, and always casts itself as quite the contrary of all that, and amusingly enough in point of fact this is true, locally. Right ossifies, and noblesse obliges, and just confounds. Their company is unhealthy, they are abstractions unfit for the contact of people, and soon enough they who were in their right and noble and just become mere charicatures of what they used to be, clinging on to the memories, to the symbols, to the stories. Stories they are barely able to articulate, stories which in their rightful enunciation, in their just retelling seem outrageously out of place and unbearably perverted. All continuation ends in parody.
If you are old enough perhaps you will understand this : there is, somewhere, a woman you once loved whom now you barely know, there are somewhere children whom you once loved whom now you barely know, there are strewn all over the place things you loved, and were good at, and understood and which sung under your able hands. And now... you barely know.
And so in this sense, your very own death, as the overthrow, base, despicable, of all that once was right and noble and just is nothing but an act of justice, and most definitely in the right. You still have the promises, in writing, you still have the certificates, on the wall, you still have the pictures, to fill the growing night in your memories. And yet...
This is the way it goes.
Take solace, if you can, in the full, round knowledge of the plain, banal fact that if you understand what I'm talking of... why... you are already dead. It just so happens you don't know it yet.
You didn't know it, yet.———
- The 1938 cannonical version, not the current monstrosity. By Van Dyke, With Norma Shearer, John Barrymore and Henry Stephenson (who plays Florimond de Mercy[-Argenteau, step-grandson of the famous general], not "de Mercey" as various websites misquote). [↩]
- To an incredible degree, no face in the crowd is cleanly shaven, no member of the public appears sober, dispasionate, you'd think Goya did the casting for this thing. Doubly remarkable an arrangement for a place which has always - and quite unreasonably, at that - glorified revolution. [↩]