A Little Chaos (2014)

A Little Chaos (2014)
  • Time: 116 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance
  • Director: Alan Rickman
  • Cast: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci


A romantic drama following Sabine, a talented landscape designer, who is building a garden at Versailles for King Louis XIV. Sabine struggles with class barriers as she becomes romantically entangled with the court’s renowned landscape artist.


  • You’ve gotta love Alan Rickman. I mean, who doesn’t like Alan Rickman? Well, now Alan Rickman has directed his second feature A Little Chaos, written by (in part) Alan Rickman and starring, among others Alan Rickman. Alan Rickman.

    The King of France, Louis XIV (Alan Rickman) is making extensive changes to the Palace of Versailles, including a huge landscaping plan to vastly improve the palace gardens. Louis has put André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts), a man that is very much following in his father’s footsteps, in charge of the project, with several other designers competing to supplement his designs. One such landscaper is Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet), who dismisses the structured approach of Nôtre in favour of a more chaotic design. Nôtre rejects her plans at first, but soon he decides that a little chaos could be exactly what the palace gardens require.

    There have been a lot of period pieces set in both pre and post-revolutionary France, often large in scale and covering years, if not decades of history. A Little Chaos on the other hand is about a relatively insignificant, yet still beautiful construction in the gardens of Versailles, and its narrow scope is refreshing. The world is a microcosm of the era, with not only the male-led hierarchy an indictment of its time but a subtle dichotomy between the beauty of the garden projects and the diseases and suffering that was occurring at the time. A point which is hardly touched upon until the final stages of the film, where it’s laboured just a bit too much in one scene. There’s also a back story for Sabine which is revealed slowly in flashbacks throughout the film, a structure which I found a bit irritating with ultimately, not much of a pay off.

    The plot is well rounded, with a good balance of character development and well..uh landscaping. I have no real idea how historically accurate it is, I know that the outdoor ballroom exists at Versailles but nothing about its construction.

    Read the full review at http://www.thatothermovieblog.blogspot.com.au

  • There are two scenes that stir the soul in the romantic period drama, A Little Chaos. One occurs in the final five minutes of the film when King Louis XIV of France and a small group of his court anoint the newly completed Rockwork Garden in Versailles with a celebratory dance. The king (Alan Rickman) is satisfied at the marble floors and tiered terraces with the sprouting fountains, and there is something about the scene that conveys a sense of perennial beauty though all these dancing men and women are merely players with limited time on this earthly stage.

    The second scene takes place roughly around the film’s halfway point. Madame Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet), who has been commissioned by the famous architect La Norte (Matthias Schoenaerts) to execute her not-so-traditional designs for the Rockwork Garden, comes upon the newly-widowed king in a small garden. As he is temporarily without his wig and finery, she mistakes him for a fellow gardener. When she does realise his true identity, he gently encourages her to keep up the charade. It’s a lovely few minutes, full of warmth and gentleness. And sadness as well for it is a rare instance when Louis can be a relaxed man and not a guarded monarch.

    Such scenes are in short supply in A Little Chaos, which is all over the place with its intentions. It purports to be a portrait of a woman making a place for herself in a man’s world whilst simultaneously building itself as a love story between two people from opposite sides of the social spectrum. It also attempts to observe 17th century court life before revealing itself to be a half-hearted look at overcoming past and present personal griefs. The filmmakers are well within their right to incorporate as many themes as they would like, but not at the expense of focus and cohesion.

    Rickman, in his second directorial effort, casts some fine actors, whose talents often make individual scenes work. Helen McCrory, for example, makes for a suitably viperish and adulterous social climber. Stanley Tucci, as the king’s bisexual brother, is gloriously camp. He seems to have accidentally wandered into the dull proceedings from a far more enjoyable film.

    Winslet always convinces even if Sabine is a character that does not exactly offer up much of a challenge. Schoenaerts is the weak link. The lack of chemistry with Winslet is already problematic, but Schoenaerts can’t seem to gather any inspiration for his portrayal of La Norte. The architect is a gloomy figure, burdened by the pressure of being in the public eye, his wife’s ambitions, and the king’s almost impossible expectations. There is a thin line between embodying weariness and resignation and playing every scene as if one is in a flatlined state. It’s a disappointment as Schoenaerts is usually a dynamic performer.

    Yet the Belgian actor is just one of the many faults that ultimately overwhelm this often well-composed and attractively costumed film. Rickman and his co-screenwriters Allison Deegan and Jeremy Brock have somehow achieved the dubious feat of draining all ounce of passion from what could have been a properly riveting romantic costumer.

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  • I saw a movie that you might have to hunt for but it is well worth the hunt. A Little Chaos is about the construction of one attraction, an outdoor ball room with a water cascade, in the gardens of Versailles. It really is a love story, a warm, lovely, an all-encompassing love story.
    The screenplay is by Jeremy Brock, Alison Deegan, and, the master of all he surveys, Alan Rickman. It is a very well written script. It has logical and unforced versions of love from failure, to bloom, to missed, to misunderstood and all of them are well placed and work. It is a story very well told. And the well told part continues with the director, Alan Rickman. He doesn’t allow the scenes or the actors to become flashy, this-is-my-movie types. Everything is integrated and part of the whole with no one piece out shining any other. It’s the movie version of a tapestry that tells a whole story in one colorful and elegant panel.
    At this point I should begin to bitch about not having enough assorted brains to filter the story through. I have done it many times before and will again. But, in this case, the Jack of all trades is also the master of them all. Alan Rickman plays one of the main characters and the driving force in this story, King Louis XIV. When the focus is Louis’s the focus is Louis’s but the rest of the film isn’t Louis’s. Rickman gives this king a quiet humanity that makes you feel sorry for him having to be king and all that includes. But he also likes his palace and his garden. Louis is the misunderstood and lost love.
    Playing Louis’s head gardener, Andre Le Notre, is Matthias Schoenaerts. He connects with the other characters without being showy about it. He just connects. It’s not always nice but it’s always believable. He is the love discovered. The woman he hires to design and build the water fall/dance floor is Sabine De Barra, played by Kate Winslet. As you might imagine for this time period, this character is fictional but is written and acted so well that you buy into all of her story. She is love recovered. Helen McCory is Madame Le Notre and you couldn’t ask for a better character to experience love lost.
    There are so many others including Stanley Tucci and Phyllida Law, who contribute to this film with the same believability of the major characters. I give this movie 4 gloves out of 4.You may have to hunt it down but it’ll be worth it.

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