A Little Chaos (2014)
There is nothing chaotic about A Little Chaos, the new romantic drama, directed and co-written by and starring Alan Rickman, alongside Kate Winslet and Stanley Tucci. Everything in this delightful period piece comes together in perfect harmony, creating a feast for the senses much like the gardens of Versailles, the creation of which forms the basis around which this film grows.
Sabine De Barra (Winslet) a struggling garden designer in seventeenth century France, is hired by André Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts), head gardener to Louis XIV, to help create the gardens at the new palace at Versailles. However, as Sabine starts work on the mammoth task of creating a green and verdant oasis from a wilderness of mud and scrubland, she begins to realise that the intrigue and treachery of life in the court of the legendary Sun King is as thorny and suffocating as any of the obstacles she could encounter in the world of nature.
A Little Chaos is the perfect example of what the British film industry does best: whilst American cinema is known for being big and brash and European avant-garde and edgy, Britain has always been at the forefront of films which exude style. From the earliest days of British cinema their films, no matter the genre, have always had a certain sense of effortlessness which makes them stand out from the rest. Produced by BBC Films and shot on location in the UK, A Little Chaos captures this essence resulting in a stylish piece of entertainment which allows the viewer to sit back and enjoy two hours of delight and escapism.
One imagines that life in the real court of Louis XIV was no where near as sanitised as depicted here, which is the film’s main downfall: though there are periods of dirt and grime — both during Sabine De Barra’s creation of a beautiful garden theatre as well as the snatches of court intrigue and scandalous affairs held behind the ornate doors of Fontainebleau and Versailles – everything is brushed with such a veneer of gloss that the more unsavoury aspects of seventeenth century life are conveniently swept aside and forgotten. Though the plot revolves around real events and people – Versailles, Louis XIV and his gardener André Le Notre existed — characters such as Winslet’s De Barra are purely fictional, created one imagines to add some colour to the proceedings: a story concerning the creation of one of Europe’s most famous gardens may make for an interesting television documentary, but it would hardly warrant the expense of a mainstream film production.
These shortcomings though, matter little in a film thats primary aim is entertainment. The real reason A Little Chaos works so well is that it takes the viewer to a world of extravagance and make-believe, where you wish you yourself could visit if only for a short time. Characters lavishly dressed in clothes by costume designer Joan Bergin, wonder amongst the corridors of some of Britain’s mostly famous stately piles including Cliveden, Hampton Court and Ham House, which double realistically for the various palaces and houses which were the homes of Louis and his court. The cast, including Rickman, Winslet, Phyllida Law, Helen McCrory (as Le Notre’s scheming wife) and the wonderful Tucci – in top form as Louis’s foppish bi-sexual brother Philippe, Duc d’Orleans — could do this kind of film in their sleep. Which is fine as it allows the viewer to relax and enjoy the film knowing they are in the safe hands of seasoned professionals.
A Little Chaos may win few awards for historical accuracy. However it would be hard to find a better example of pure cinematic entertainment — which is after all the medium’s main aim.
A Little Chaos was released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray on the 24th August, 2015
DIRECTOR: ALAN RICKMAN
WRITERS: JEREMY BROCK, ALISON DEEGAN, ALAN RICKMAN
STARS: ALAN RICKMAN, KATE WINSLET, MATTHIAS SCHOENAERTS, STANLEY TUCCI, HELEN MCCRORY, PHYLLIDA LAW
RUNTIME: 117 MINS