(Note: Sorry, I meant to get this up last week but just didn’t get to it.)
It’s a sure sign that it’s Oscar season since actors get bonus points when they pretend to be in the past and the design department gets a chance to shine. This is quite a week for period films, both those of the non-fictional and fictional variety. Flags of our Fathers fits into the first category and The Prestige the second. Into the latter group comes the latest film from director Sophia Coppola, Marie Antoinette, with the lovely Kirsten Dunst in the titular role.
(Heh. I said â€œtit.â€ Heh.)
The movie tells the story of the real life queen of France but adds some, well, let’s just call them embellishments to make it more of an allegory for today’s celebrity culture. Far from being a stodgy, BBC-esque biopic, Marie Antoinette presents the the queen as (and I’m the 598th person to use this analogy) sort of the Paris Hilton of her day. While the citizens of France suffer from extreme poverty and increasingly blame the monarchy for their problems, Marie lavishes herself with gown, jewelry and the finest the world had to offer at the time. As we’ll see, everything about this campaign is designed to make this feel like a very contemporary story, albeit one set in 1744 France.
Side note: I’d have given the studio $10 if they could have found a way to have Jason Schwartzman say â€œIt’s good to be the king.â€ I’m not even kidding.
Take a moment and revel in just how much this poster is designed to look like a magazine cover. What better way to appeal to a celebrity-driven culture than to immediately evoke one of the primary mediums that obsession is fueled by. The glamor shot of Dunst and bright, pop-art-esque title treatment are meant to literally leap off the poster and grab you as you walk past them.
The teaser trailer isn’t so much a trailer as it is a music video that serves as a promotional vehicle for the movie. There is no dialogue by anyone, just Dunst and a lot of other people who, I think it’s accurate to say, are cavorting. Yeah, I think that’s the right word. The most notable thing about the spot is the use of contemporary music in it, specifically “Ceremony” by New Order. Using current music in period movies isn’t always a great tactic, in fact most of the time it’s outright awful. But it works here because â€“ and this is an important point â€“ it complements and fits in with the images we’re seeing. The jingling guitars and driving beats actually work to emphasize the raucous nature of the action on screen. But while it might be an effective music video, that’s all it winds up being. It’s a teaser trailer only in practice and not in definition, if that makes any sense. It raises awareness effectively but does little to sell the movie on its merits.
The full trailer features the same contemporary music, this time “Nature’s Not In It by Gang of Four but gets into the actual movie a bit more. Now we’re given the plot setup, that Antoinette has been married off by her family to cement the partnership of Austria (where she’s from) and France. It’s a marriage of political expediency. She’s shown being forced, more or less, to leave behind the vestiges of the life she knew to take on the role that’s been thrust upon her. We’re also shown how the marriage is a lonely one, with her life almost completely devoid of any involvement by her husband. So, we’re left to assume by what we see then, she compensates by throwing herself into the world of parties, adulterous affairs and other material pleasures. But still we see her as someone sad and lonely.
This trailer is just as effective in its own right as the teaser. I think it succeeds at presenting Antoinette as the spiritual predecessor to today’s socialite bimbos, a parallel that could go a long way to drawing in a younger crowd. I don’t think that will work, since the people obsessed with A Socialite’s Life or gossip magazines aren’t likely to have the attention span to follow the story or wit to grasp the message, but that’s a failing on the part of the audience, not the marketers or studio.
Consider me impressed. For a movie that I’d be willing to bet won’t do all that well outside the art-house circuit the studio obviously didn’t skimp on the budget for the website. Let’s take a look.
When you first bring up the introduction site the trailer autoplays, which isn’t that big an annoyance. You can also check out the promotional partnerships for the movie by clicking the â€œPromotionsâ€ link. Most of these partners are either lifestyle products or, for some reason, educational things like Cliffs Notes. Seems an odd juxtaposition but I’m sure it makes sense to someone. Finally there’s a place to â€œView the Premiere Podcastâ€ which is not actually a podcast but just a bit of online video. Podcasts are audio or video files that are delivered through an RSS feed, or at least have a feed available. This is just online video. There’s a difference and I will call out anyone who keeps trying to be cool by calling their static video a podcast in an attempt to be hip. Stop it.
Moving on, once you actually â€œEnter the Siteâ€ you’ll see that Sony has done a really nice job in terms of making this a fully functional site. Here’s a rundown of the standard elements of the site:
â—Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Story: A pretty robust recap of the story of Marie Antoinette that’s told in the movie, along with some commentary from the people involved in the film.
â—Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Cast/Filmmakers: Basic but well written recaps of the professional careers of those in front of and behind the camera.
â—Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Gallery: 24 stills, most of which are recognizable as being lifted from the same footage used in the trailers.
â—Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Downloads: The usual selection of Wallpapers, a Screensaver and some Buddy Icons. There’s also some Stickers for you to download as a PDF file and print out. Considering the teenage demographic that the studio is obviously trying to reach with this film, providing something like this that can be printed out and applied to, say, a school folder or something is a great move.
â—Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â E-Card: Send your friends a branded email.
â—Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Trailers & Clips: Kind of misleading since it really just contains the trailers but that’s a small quibble.
â—Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Production Notes: These go into great depth about not only how the movie was brought to life but also the real person who was Marie Antoinette. There’s a historical time line amongst the offerings here that shows how, before her execution as a traitor at the age of just 35, Marie led a life of hardships and heartbreaks. Great to see this kind of historical background given on the movie’s subject matter.
There’s also a great section about the real Marie Antoinette and her live, loves, passions, and friends. It’s a fantastic background on the real person of the movie and a great example of what to do with historical movies.
Good campaign, and one that corresponded with a sharp uptick in press coverage of the late French queen. Just a nice solid effort that obviously is appealing to a younger demographic, a tactic that I don’t know about in terms of effectiveness. Better, I think, to try and sell it to the art-house crowd.