A Little Chaos inspires a surprising amount of peace.
If you’re looking for a film to watch with a hot cup of tea or a glass of wine on a rainy day, this is it. Suffice it to say, this film takes me to my happy place.
Versailles and its gardens are famous for a reason, and this film opens with them still under construction. At the beginning there is no Hall of Mirrors, no oyster-shelled walks, none of the things that I admired on my own journey there years ago. This is a genesis story. This allows the characters to carry the film without resting on their stunning surroundings to captivate the audience.
Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet, The Divergent Series, The Dressmaker) is the unlikely candidate chosen to assist André Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Danish Girl) in landscaping a portion of the gardens at Versailles. Her personal style is in the chaos. It varies from the order set by the Romans and the Renaissance. She prefers the French way of setting one’s own fashion (*insert fist pump here*). It wins her the affection and respect, and occasionally the hatred, of those around her, including King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman, Eye in the Sky, Alice Through the Looking Glass).
Have I mentioned the costumes? No? Allow me.
I don’t think my t-shirt and yoga pants are quite the equivalent of Sabine’s distinctively feminine-yet-practical gardening clothes (I mean I thought about wearing my corset while weeding, but I abandoned the idea). As much as I love the natural, well-wearing fabrics used in her work attire, I love her court gowns even more. In that prestigious setting she requires more silk and lace to blend in with the heavy brocades and miles of pearls. She’s still more simply dressed than those around her, but she stands out all the same. She’s authentic and a working woman who shares the common thread of motherhood, love, and loss with those around her.
In a particularly vulnerable moment, Sabine bonds with a group of women who are disappointed that they are merely decorative. They depend on their beauty, wit, and accomplishments to retain the favor of the men who keep them fed and clothed. This means that tears must be shut away and grievances must be silenced.
In a series of secretive confessions, each woman shares her burden with Sabine since she’s an anomaly. She’s dared to live life independently. This scene was quite possibly my favorite, and it’s definitely the one that made me cry. Sabine listens to these women, and uses her modicum of power to speak for them when given the opportunity. It’s a sweet, “we women have to stick together” moment that is entirely relatable and poignant.
My thumb is no greener for having seen this film, but A Little Chaos certainly carries a refreshing serenity that makes it stand out from others in its genre. It’s a sweet and inspiring piece.