Front Row at the Movies
Alan Rickman Adds “A Little Chaos” to Louis XIV’s Court
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Remember Severus Snape, a professor of the Dark Arts in all those “Harry Potter” movies? That role was played by Alan Rickman, a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His breakout role came as Vicomte de Valmont in the 1982 stage production of “Les liaisons dangereuses.”
Well, Rickman is up to his old magic again, this time both directing and starring in “A Little Chaos,” a period film set in the court of King Louis XIV of France. It’s currently holding court at Tropic Cinema.
Here, a Parisian woman named Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet) applies to design a fountain for the gardens of Versailles. Despite her unlikely candidacy, she gets the assignment when landscaper André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts) notices her moving a potted plant to a better location while waiting for her interview. He likes her non-traditionalist approach.
And, of course, he falls for her, no matter that he already has a wife at home (Helen McCrory).
Even though André’s wife has a lover on the side, she shows a tinge of jealousy and all but destroys Sabine’s Versailles project by unleashing a flood. But in O.J. fashion, she leaves a glove behind which André finds. It’s sort of like having a Get Out of Jail Free card.
If this landscaping disaster were not bad enough, Sabine is haunted by the memories of her dead daughter and husband. But you guessed it, André is there to lean on.
Meanwhile Sabine has gained favor with the King (Alan Rickman, of course) after mistaking him for a gardener. Turns out, he’s an all-right guy as far as royalty goes.
Producer Zygi Kamasa proudly stated, “We are delighted to be working with the best of British actors and directors like Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman.” Ignoring that Matthias Schoenaerts is Belgian and Stanley Tucci (playing the King’s dandified brother) is American.
Rickman has a message to deliver. “The film is not just frills at the wrists and collars. It’s about people getting their hands dirty and building something in order to entertain the other world they serve. It’s about how one world maintains the other, often at the cost of women.
Kate Winslet elaborates. “I definitely felt that there were similarities between myself and Sabine. She’s overcome a lot of grief in her life and certain degrees of extreme hardship and I’ve had a bumpy ride in my personal life as well. I admire the fact that she could do that. She didn’t carry the grief with her or expect the world to pity her. She just picked herself up and carried on because she had to in order to survive.
Alan Rickman points out that Sabine de Barra is the only fictitious character in the film, all the others being based on historical people. “We play fast and loose with history anyway -- it’s a joke that a woman like Sabine could have existed at all. It would have been impossible. Hopefully telling a story that after a while you forget about period and think, wow, a totally male dominated world in which women are just decorative objects. What would be the modern parallels of that, perchance? And all sorts of other things about people with power, usually men.”