The plot of the film Jeanne DuBarry (2023) and the real story of the royal favorite: a film based on real historical events, plot description, similar films.
Genre: drama, biography, history
Year of production: 2023
Actors: Maiwenn, Johnny Depp, Benjamin Laverne
The plot of the film “Jeanne du Barry” is quite simple and even naive. There are no complex mysteries or secrets in it – it’s just a beautiful and immersive love story. The film is based on real events, but it still cannot be called completely historical.
The true story of Jeanne DuBarry
The exact date of Jeanne’s birth is unclear, but most likely it happened in 1743. Her mother was a seamstress and her father is unknown.
Having matured, the girl got a job as an apprentice to a barber, but soon she took a fancy to the owner’s handsome son, and the stern barber showed her the door. Jeanne tried for some time to find a permanent job and eventually got a job at the boarding house (actually, a brothel) of Madame Gourdan under the name Manon Lanson.
Maiwenn played the role of Jeanne DuBarry. Still from the film.
A year later she met Count Jean du Barry there. Admired by the beauty of the girl, the count fell in love instantly and bought her from the brothel. Their relationship was very strange – after all, the count not only spent time with Jeanne, but also offered her to his friends. However, she didn’t mind. Unless she really wanted to get a richer patron.
And she succeeded – she was introduced to King Louis XV. At that time, he was experiencing a personal tragedy – not so long ago his main mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour, died. Moreover, around the same time, the monarch’s son died, and then his daughter-in-law. The queen, in poor health, was also on her deathbed.
Like the Count du Barry once, the king fell in love with Jeanne at first sight. Their almost open romance shocked Versailles and, in order not to outrage noble society, Louis decided to marry Jeanne to the brother of Comte du Barry. The marriage was fictitious: Guillaume du Barry had no rights to his wife.
The king and his beloved were happy until his death in May 1774. His grandson Louis XVI ascended the throne. The Countess was not very well versed in politics and at the very beginning of the French Revolution she ardently supported the royalists. For her, it all ended on December 8, 1793: on a cold, cloudy day, Jeanne’s head was cut off on a guillotine.
Johnny Depp played the role of King Louis XV. Still from the film.
What is the movie about
Brief description of the contents of the picture. In the center of the plot is a girl named Zhanna. Born into a simple family, she very quickly realized that the life of an ordinary worker was not for her, and eventually became a courtesan. Soon Jeanne meets Count du Barry and, with his help, enters the highest circle.
One day the count meets with Richelieu, who is too concerned about the king’s condition. Louis XV is in severe depression after the death of his faithful friend, the Marquise de Pompadour. He is sure that only a charming courtesan will help him return the meaning of life.
Zhanna doesn’t really like this idea. She is not at all delighted with the fact that the Count perceives her as a commodity that can be sold profitably at any moment. When du Barry says that he loves her, Jeanne just grins. “This is not love,” she says. “What is love?” – asks the puzzled count. The girl does not have her own interpretation, but she is sure that love is still something else.
Nevertheless, she responds to Richelieu’s persistent invitation with consent. After spending time with her, the old man decides that Jeanne can be introduced to the king. Soon Louis and Jeanne actually meet. Looking into the girl’s eyes, the gloomy monarch smiles fleetingly as he leaves. Behind him, old Richelieu rubs his hands contentedly: it worked!
The king actually invites Jeanne to his place. He likes the girl’s sincerity and allows her to stay and then spends the night with her. After this, a real romance breaks out between them. Jeanne is constantly present in the king’s life as a shadow – she watches how he holds receptions and gets to know his family in absentia – in particular, princesses Adelaide, Sophie, Victoria and Louise.
Pierre Richard stars as the Duke de Richelieu. Still from the film.
One day at a picnic, Louise notices Jeanne, and she hurries to leave as soon as possible. Soon after this, the queen dies. During the period of mourning, Jeanne is sent to a secret place, where she eagerly awaits the challenge. Soon the king calls her to him again: he can no longer think about anything else, because the meaning of his life has now become a lovely courtesan.
One day his daughters come to the king. They are outraged by the rumors that are spreading with amazing speed throughout Versailles. The answer to the discontent lies not in the monarch’s love of love, but in the fact that his mistress is a “rootless simpleton.” Only Louise considers it unacceptable to have fun with another woman while she and her sisters are mourning their mother.
A little later, the king is given a direct hint: no one will put up with a commoner in his circle. To this, the monarch, barely restraining his rage, replies that Jeanne is his entourage.
And yet, in order to get a place at court, Jeanne had to receive a noble title. So she became the wife of her former lover, Jean du Barry. In return, the count received an impressive amount of money. After this, the girl undergoes training – she is taught manners and etiquette.
One of the important rules of etiquette is: never look the king in the eye. People around you may perceive a direct gaze as a manifestation of arrogance and pride. However, Jeanne boldly breaks the rule and looks tenderly into the eyes of the monarch during the reception. The environment is shaken up, but the king understands that this was done for a reason, but with a hidden meaning: Jeanne loves him.
One day, a black boy appears at court, whom the king gives to a courtesan. His unusual appearance for that time becomes a reason for all sorts of jokes, but Zhanna treats the teenager kindly and makes him her page, which incurs a new barrage of criticism.
Benjamin Laverne as La Borde. Still from the film.
Taking advantage of the king’s patronage, Madame du Barry began to “promote” a new fashion at court, which the king jokingly calls “Dubarism.” She also welcomes people of art – artists, musicians and poets. She doesn’t want to think that at any moment the king might choose another woman over her.
Soon Jeanne meets with the princesses and brings a page with her. All of them, except Louise, who sees God’s creation in the boy, treat him and Jeanne with contempt. Probably, the vulgar reception and disgusting behavior of the sisters forced Louise to eventually leave Versailles and go to a monastery. The daughter’s decision greatly upsets the king. He suddenly loses interest in Jeanne and brings another mistress.
Having learned about this, the girl is seriously worried: does her beloved have other women?.. She is enlightened: she is Louis’s favorite, but the king’s tastes are changeable and he wants something new. Zhanna is outraged: he can cheat on her, but she must remain faithful? However, these are the laws of Versailles…
Soon the king’s grandson, the Dauphin Louis Capet, marries Marie Antoinette of Austria. Young Marie Antoinette immediately begins to be turned against Jeanne. She doesn’t really want to make the royal favorite her enemy, but nevertheless she succumbs to the influence of the princesses.
One day, in the presence of the king, the young Dauphine greatly insults Jeanne. He is furious: the alliance between France and Austria is at stake, and “some girl” is ruining everything. In the end, Marie Antoinette understands the rules of the game and establishes contact with Jeanne. This dots all the i’s: the royal family recognizes her.
Unfortunately, Jeanne’s happiness does not last long: the king falls ill with smallpox. She understands that she is in danger: if Louis dies, she will immediately be hunted…
Explanation of the ending of the picture. Towards the end, the sick king asks Jeanne to leave, and she agrees. Before this, she touchingly says goodbye to him and leaves the courtyard with great reluctance.
Soon Versailles learns of the death of the monarch. “The king is dead. Long live the king” – Louis XVI ascends the throne. Versailles is in a hurry to bow to the one who is destined to become the last monarch of France of the Old Order.
Jeanne arrives at the monastery, but a year later Louis XVI allows her to be released on the condition that she not approach Versailles. She goes to her estate and lives there for 15 years. After the start of the Great French Revolution, she, as a supporter of the royalists and a “traitor,” is sent to the guillotine… The meaning of the ending of the film “Jeanne DuBarry” lies on the surface. Probably the best way to express it is the saying “The higher you fly, the harder you fall”…
The meaning of the film
“This is absurd! No, this is Versailles.” This dialogue is heard almost at the very end, but in an amazing way it accurately reflects the essence of the film.
“Jeanne DuBarry” is not a historical painting. The film is almost completely free of politics and the dirt associated with it. There is neither the ease of libertinism nor the spirit of Enlightenment here. Only a few names remind us of the terrible times ahead. However, Robespierre, Marat, Danton and Desmoulins are now doing their own thing, and young Marie Antoinette is not yet a queen…
A significant part of the film is based on ridiculing certain aspects of the 18th century that were part of Versailles. We are talking about manners, strange habits and hypocrisy. Like the relatively recently filmed “The Favorite,” “Jeanne DuBarry” depicts the decadence of the Baroque era. However, if the British picture goes into rather evil sarcasm, the French manage to maintain the elegance, grace of the “picture” and a share of sympathy for the characters. In general, the film has a fairly good atmosphere, although many of the images (for example, the princesses) are almost caricatured.
Still from the film.
The director did not make it a priority to ridicule the notorious vices of society, although the subtle flair of the “story” is definitely present here. However, Maiwenn did not focus the viewer’s attention on the themes of feminism and the problems of blacks. Her film is something like a confession.
In their analyzes of the film, viewers often quote from interviews with the director. In it, she says that she herself was partly in Jeanne’s place – at a very young age she had an affair with a serious adult man – Luc Besson. Impressed by his relationship with her, he created, probably, his best script – the drama “Leon”. The romance was long-lasting and passionate, and at the age of 17, Maiwenn gave birth to her beloved son. However, they eventually broke up…
Not least of all, this happened under the influence of the public – many suspected the girl of self-interest. Maiwenn had to accept this, however, when she became acquainted with Jeanne’s story, she realized that the attitude she had to face many years ago was very unfair. So she came up with the idea to tell about this part of her life through the prism of the story of Madame DuBarry. This became a kind of therapy for Maiwenn: she was able to talk to the viewer about deeply personal things, but at the same time remain under the guise of a royal favorite.
For this reason, her picture is not a psychological drama with hidden meaning. This is just a subjective view of a little love story. And everything else is not so important.
Here are several films that are somewhat similar to “Jeanne DuBarry” in meaning and plot:
- “The Favorite” (UK, Ireland, USA, 2018). Beginning of the 18th century, Anglo-French war. England is formally led by Queen Anne, but in fact by her friend Sarah Marlborough, who, however, will soon have to make room for her claims.
- “Marie Antoinette” (USA, France, Japan, 2005). The film tells the story of the French queen Marie Antoinette.
- “The Duchess” (USA UK France Italy, 2008). The plot centers on the fate of the Duchess of Devonshire, a trendsetter and a skilled manipulator.
- “Another Boleyn Girl” (USA, UK, 2008). Anne Boleyn is vying for the attention of King Henry VIII.
- “Two Queens” (USA, UK, 2018). The film tells about the relationship between Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart.
- “Tulip Fever” (USA, UK, 2017). A young Dutch artist receives an order to paint a portrait of a beautiful burgher. Feelings flare up between the master and the model.