A Little Chaos (2014)
Plot: Sabine De Barra is chosen by landscaper André Le Nôtre to work as a landscape gardener at the Palace of Versailles.
Director: Alan Rickman
Cast: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Helen McCrory.
The film is set in 16th century France during the age of absolutism under the reign of Louis XIV (Alan Rickman). The king gives André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenarts) a vital task: to build the new gardens of the Versailles Palace that will show the power and strength of France to the entire world. In order to do so, Le Nôtre has to choose a landscape gardener that will have to carry out the project. At this point in the story we meet the troubled but lovely and honest Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet), whose talent will almost immediately capture the master’s attention and things will turn out unexpectedly.
The characters in this film were all equally interesting and Alan Rickman’s performance as both actor and director was compelling. I was looking forward to watching this film not only for the story but also for the cast, and I was particularly curious to watch a film directed by Alan Rickman because I kept wondering if he would be as good of a director as he is an actor. I must say that I wasn’t disappointed. Still, I would definitely suggest that Alan Rickman should keep being an actor instead of a director, he wasn’t bad at all but I think that acting is his main talent – his portrayal of Louis XIV was different from the way you would aspect an absolute monarch to be portrayed, especially in the sequence in the garden, when he talks to Madame De Barra and asks her advice. I won’t share much more about it, but it was undoubtedly one of my favourite scenes. I will just say that he seemed devoted and kind.
Kate Winslet is also a remarkable and versatile actress. I enjoyed watching her in this film: she was exactly as good as I expected, considering that almost all the films in her past acting career were successful and involving. As Sabine De Barra she gives a remarkable insight into the character’s mind and feelings; her distress and sadness caused by shocking past events that still haunt her.
André le Nôtre is brilliantly portrayed by Matthias Schoenaerts. I’ve seen him in other films and he’s always quite fascinating and intriguing – I enjoy watching his films and this one was no exception. André seems an honest man committed to the king and the task he has been given. He lives with a selfish wife Madame Française Le Nôtre who is not capable of love; she’s just cold and cruel, and she keeps playing with other people’s lives (especially André’s). She seems to see him and treat him just like an object and she expects him to behave and act as she commands him to. André is not of the same opinion, of course, as he’s a strong man who knows what he wants. The scenes between Matthias Schoenearts and Helen McCrory were few but intense and important, as I believe they revealed a lot about both characters’ inner selves and intentions. Another meaningful moment was the first dialogue between Sabine and André at the beginning of the film, although they always shared meaningful moments and their dialogues were enjoyable so it’s a bit difficult to narrow them down.
Overall the film was very good, compelling, interesting and original. The writers were quite imaginative and clearly put a lot of effort into this project. Nevertheless, there are a few things that I didn’t quite like. For example, the film seemed a bit slow and maybe too long; the story wasn’t all that complicated so I think it could have been managed in less screen time. Some moments are too slow and don’t seem to get to the point immediately. And, I personally found the dancing scene at the end of the film a bit over the top – I just think it was a bit too much – although the French Court was famous for its excess and ostentation. You could also easily tell that A Little Chaos wasn’t filmed in France but I guess in the end that wasn’t a really big fault.
I really liked this film and I certainly recommend that anyone who is interested in French history should watch it. Even though it’s not a biopic or a historical film, I still found it interesting. It was a watchable and enjoyable film.
I'm particularly passionate about British and German cinema, and I'm a sucker for a good old war film.