The soundtrack to Marie Antoinette (2006) stands as an ancillary text that heavily influences the film’s publicity, interpretation, and reception. The soundtrack also conveys Coppola’s vision for the spirit of the film and clearly presents the youthful ideology of excess, romance, and transition at its core. Sofia Coppola uses music as a valuable asset to the marketing of her films as well as a crucial part of her artistic vision. The Marie Antoinette that Coppola most wanted to portray is synonymous with a punk rock personality and 80’s glam. The music chosen for the film goes beyond a desire to sell copies of a catchy soundtrack; the music dictates character development and is an integral part of the scenes as well as a deciding factor in the film’s level of relateability.
The use of music as a means to convey her artistic message is nothing new for Sofia Coppola. Both The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation have incredibly significant soundtracks to the spirit of each film. However, Marie Antoinette is the most interconnected between its thematic choices and its soundtrack. The music mirrors the manner in which Coppola desired to portray her film, not as a stuffy, harpsichord heavy period piece but as a fresh look into the subjectivity of youth and privilege. The music in the film is what makes it both relevant and delightful. There is little detachment between the young Marie Antoinette and juvenile girls today, trying on shoes and experimenting in opulence.
In an interview with Rebecca Murray Coppola remarks at the heart of her Marie Antoinette was the question, “How do I make a period film that isn’t in the genre of period films but in my own style?” One potential answer to Coppola’s query can be found by taking a closer look at the Marie Antoinette soundtrack and investigating Coppola’s musical choices. The soundtrack “debuted at number 154 on the US Billboard 200. In its second week it jumped to number 97 and was named that week's ‘pace setter’. It was nominated for ‘Best Soundtrack’ at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards” (Wikipedia). The byline is “music for the party and for the morning after,” a statement that seems to sum up the nature of Marie Antoinette’s life, a definite party accompanied by a rather vicious “morning after.”
The songs ‘I Want Candy’ and Johnny Mercer's "Fools Rush In," both sung by Bow Wow Wow, were remixed for the film by Kevin Shields, the front man for My Bloody Valentine. Bow Wow Wow, a 1980s new wave band created by Malcolm McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols, features singer Annabella Lwin, who was only fourteen when she was discovered by McLaren. In an interview with Pitchfork media, Bow Wow Wow’s manager, Nicole Powers discussed how Coppola drew connections between Lwin and Marie Antoinette for inspiration. Powers notes, “they were both young girls who found fame and fortune at a ridiculously early age."The parallel is completely believable and would align with Coppola’s desire to present Marie Antoinette as someone that a 21st century audience might understand. Her Marie is not wicked or evil; she is just young and over-privileged.
In the same interview Powers also notes that in Marie Antoinette “all the graphic design is based around that Jamie Reid style that was on the Sex Pistols cover.” This further supports the marketability of music culture, in this case punk culture, as a means to sell the tone of the film to an unknowing audience. If the film’s title is presented in a bold pink font in the style of the Sex Pistols, the public is already aware that Coppola’s movie will not be a cookie cutter period piece.
Kevin Shield’s, who also worked with Coppola on the Lost in Translation soundtrack, remixes Bow Wow Wow’s hit single ‘I Want Candy’ for the sumptuous shopping montage in Marie Antoinette. Marie and her friends the Duchesse de Polignac and Princesse Lamballe recline on silken couches while rich fabrics are presented to them for potential dress materials. Marie remarks, “I like the pink, it’s like candy.” Piles of shoes, fabrics, and fans litter the gilded floor around them as they stuff their faces with cake. Each confection is a small work of art and close shots reveal their intricate composition as well as their subsequent ingestion by the three beautiful women. ‘I Want Candy’ blares and sets the fast paced tone of the scene in terms of its fast cuts and its montage style featuring champagne, heels, and bejeweled puppies. The song also grounds the display of excess in a wholly youthful context and culture, there are no stuffy gentry in this scene, and this space belongs to Marie and her beauties alone.
The following scene features another brilliantly accessed slice of modernized history in which Marie and her entourage sneak to Paris to attend a masked ball. Upon their entrance, the song ‘Hong Kong Garden’ by Siouxsie + the Banshees begins and instantly makes visible the attitude of the dance. The song choice manages to clearly convey the unique nature of the masked ball; this is no oppressive mignonette. The dancing in this scene is all about grabbing, whirling, and drunken flirtations. It is decidedly ruffled and translates the space into one of transgression, where Marie might finally flirt and enjoy the company of men other than Louis XVI. The fast pace of the song and its rebellious tone allows the masked ball to be about more than a party. The scene is Marie’s revolt, and the audiences chance to glimpse what uncorseted and scandalous flirtations might have looked like.
An article in WENN Entertainment News Wire Service describes how Sophia Coppola used ‘Hong Kong Garden’ as the “wake-up tune” for her cast and crew. Kristen Dunst says, "Sometimes we would play music and that would evoke different feelings. It was great because when you're shooting at eight in the morning, when you just got done with tons of hair and make-up and wardrobe, and everyone's a little tired, the energy from music like that really helps.” The use of music to induce certain feelings is not a new concept, nor is it exclusive to Sophia Coppola’s work; however, her application is crucial. In order for her to critique the historical moment of Marie Antoinette in the manner which her imaginative vision dictates she must make it relatable as well youthful, and the soundtrack is a clear way to achieve this.
The intermixing of music with Marie Antoinette’s storyline is again present in the montage of the love scenes between Marie Antoinette and Count Fersen. Right before the two begin their affair there is a scene in the drawing room which features light harpsichord music and a general air of stuffiness. There is speculation about Marie’s flirtation with the Count and the atmosphere is quite subdued. However, once Marie and Count Fersen carry out their desires there is an amazing shift to the song ``Kings of the Wild Frontier,'' by Adam & the Ants. Marie is shown lying on the bed naked, a feather in her hair, holding a fan as a seductive cover up. She and the Count kiss with the rebellious beat behind them. The mood of their liaison is clearly presented by Coppola’s music choice.
In choosing this song, Coppola makes clear that the relationship between the two is primarily and positively about sex and passion. It is the first time that Marie discovers her own desirability and enjoys it through her infatuation with Fersen. Coppola supposedly bases her portrayal of Count Fersen on Adam Ant, which further supports the shear importance of music on the film, in both the construction of characters and the visibility of the popular culture that Coppola chose to align with her Marie Antoinette.
Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette wore to the revolution, asserts that the image of Marie Antoinette is legend, and her influence on fashion and popular consciousness certainly did not end with her execution in 1793. Weber notes, “This new movie, with its pop anthems and Valley Girl queen, is simply the latest manifestation of that same tradition -- a new Marie Antoinette, to reflect Ms. Coppola's time and place.” Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is very much her own and the music she features is a simple way to assert this fact.
The correspondence between Sophia Coppola's savvy use of music and the actual Marie Antoinette’s use of fashion is unmistakable. Both fashion and music supplement the presented persona and in many ways make up the substance. Marie Antoinette was deeply defined by her fashion; it is at the heart of what is remembered about her. Music in Coppola’s film is also a crucial part of her identity, her films function in some ways as fantastic music videos. This is not intended in the negative, nor is it meant to insinuate that Coppola’s films are devoid of true artistic value. They are real art in a way that many directors are too scared to portray. Sophia Coppola is not afraid to present her Versailles exactly as her creativity dictates, without too much grim historical substance and with lots of shoes.
(October 22, 2006). Coppola Uses Banshees Anthem as Marie Antoinette Wake-up Tune. World Entertainment News Network. 24 November, 2008.
"Marie Antoinette (soundtrack)." Wikipedia. 14 October 2008. the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.. 24 November, 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Antoinette_(soundtrack)>.
Murray, Rebecca. (2006). Hollywood Movies Writer/Director Sofia Coppola Talks About "Marie Antoinette”. About.com, Inc., a part of The New York Times Company. 24 November, 2008 from http://movies.about.com/od/marieantoinette/a/mariesc101006.htm.
Phillips, Amy. (May 18, 2006). Kevin Shields Remixes Bow Wow Wow for Sofia
Coppola's Marie Antoinette Soundtrack. Pitchfork media. 24 November, 2008 from http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/news/36400-kevin-shields-remixes-bow-wow-wow-for-sofia-coppolas-marie-antoinette-soundtrack.
Weber., Caroline. (October 21, 2006). Queen of the Zeitgeist. New York Times. 24 November, 2008 from http://www.nytimes.com.