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        The opening scene of the film Marie Antoinette
(Sofia Coppola, 2006) is set in Austria: a static image
of a young Marie Antoinette sleeping in a dark room.
The establishing shot that follows shows Schönbrunn
Palace in the early, grey morning light, before
reverting to a close-up of Marie Antoinette waking up.
Completely unaware of what the future has in store for
her, Marie Antoinette allows the attendants to dress
her just as on any other day. While she waits for them
to lace the corset and finish her hair, she appears
unconcerned and plays with her little pug. Dressed in a
soft, velvety and lavender blue two-pieced dress, she
then meets with her mother, before being sent off to
France.
        The theme of dressing and redressing, which is
accentuated in the opening scene, is pursued throughout
the film Marie Antoinette, establishing costume as a
significant feature for reading the movie. Costumes
help in the construction of cinematic identities. Their
colors and configurations intervene with the actors’
movements, allowing further characterization on a more
associative level. A character’s story is visualized
through clothing. At first glance the attire of a
filmic character connotes time period, social status,
and whether or not the cinematic world refers to
fantasy or reality. A closer examination reveals more
subtle details: a character’s state of mind,
motivations, and how the character wishes to be
perceived.
        Costume design involves conceptualizing and
creating garments that capture and define the
personalities of fictional characters and are therefore
intended to embody the psychological, social and
emotional condition of the character at a particular
moment in the screenplay. For instance, one of the
scenes in the “I Want Candy” montage in the film shows
Marie Antoinette trying on new high-heeled shoes, and
next to her on the floor lays a pair of well-worn,
light blue Converse boots. The anachronistic feature is
a cross-reference to today’s fashion and youth
culture, reminding the audience that this is a film
about teenagers and not really an 18th century period
piece.
        Additionally, in Marie Antoinette, color is
used in a nuanced way, not only to describe the
characters, but also in order to facilitate a specific
look for the whole movie. On a conceptual level, the
colors are used to tell a story. In this case, a story
with an unhappy ending. In this early stage of Marie
Antoinette’s time at Versailles, the colors worn and
applied are light and icy, more sorbet-like. In the
middle of the film—depicting her party years—her gowns
become most dessert-like in their choice of color and
even in cut, with bright yellow, pink and blue
combinations creating a macaroon effect with the
ornamentation of petticoats and skirts. Her dresses are
modified in configuration as well and become bolder,
with more daring garnish. In the final sequences of
Marie Antoinette’s life at Versailles, the colors grow
a bit darker, faded, and become stricter. The fabric
seems to change as well, and the dresses look heavier
and more formal. The whole mise-en-scène subsequently
becomes darkened and the film ends with a frame of her
wrecked apartment overlaid with the sound of the
guillotine as it slices the air (implying Marie
Antoinette’s beheading).
        The color palette of the costumes might be
translated to a depiction of Marie Antoinette’s inner
journey. The range of colors are comparable to those of
the seasons, beginning with the light, spring-like
pastels for her youth; bright summer colors
representing her party years; and the darker,
autumn-like shades for the last period at Versailles.
As such, the costumes have metaphoric meaning; they are
symbols of a stage in life and a state of mind. The
costumes for Marie Antoinette are thus understood as
being designed in order to communicate the inner
experiences of the characters.
        Ultimately, costume design in Marie Antoinette
allows us to quickly grasp what the characters are all
about. The actual changes in French fashion that began
in the 1780s are in the film used as a way to visualize
Marie Antoinette’s state of mind. The costumes
conspire with the other cinematic features, generating
a symbolic network for telling a story through
dress. 
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The main point of the passage is that:

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The opening scene of

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