The Royal Exchange (2017) Poster

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Could've been good
dsdsds169 September 2018
France, early 18th century. The legendary Sun-king is no more. His great-grandson and heir Louis XV is still a minor. Philippe d'Orleans, nephew of the deceased ruler, acts as regent. Eager to cement a reliable peace with Philippe d'Anjou, king of Spain, the regent proposes two marriages between the royal families.

Naturally, that initiative must be understood according to the political peculiarities of the time. Philippe d'Anjou ascended to the throne of Spain championed by his grandfather Louis XIV. After a long and bloody war against the Austrian claimant, Philippe managed to secure the Spanish crown, but had to renounce his rights to French succession.

The regent feared that d'Anjou would now take advantage of the monarch transition in France and disregard the renouncement. In this sense, marriage came off as a quite convenient diplomacy tool.

Louis XV was married to Anna Maria Victoria, Philippe d'Anjou's infant daughter. The regent's daughter, Louise Élisabeth, coupled with Louis of Spain, Philippe's eldest son. The regent's choice for Louis XV was not unopposed, though. The perfidious Prince de Condé, another grandson of the Sun king, wanted an older match for the boy, so that an heir could be produced quickly. For reasons I won't spoil here, the unions don't flow as smooth as idealized.

So, given that introduction, let's move to the movie itself:

-"L'échange des princesses" is monotonous. It has too much of a contemplative nature and very little motion -I couldn't identify the climax at all. Were this movie supposed to be a philosophical or experimental work, that wouldn't be an issue. But it's as formulaic as most historical dramas.

-The sequence of events is cartoonish and superficial. We viewers are limited to the uninteresting daily life of royal people and their repetitive, silly feelings. It seems like the director just didn't care about building a solid grid of events. He decided the synopsis should be more than a prelude to the movie; it should be the movie itself! A few additions were made, but nothing relevant enough to keep the viewer awakened. We know the end from the middle and the director puts no effort in surprising us. Of course, movies based on history are always prone to that; but here the issue is just blatant.

-I didn't spot a single miserable soul on screen. No beggars, no smallpox victims lying on roads, no hunger-ridden peasants, no despicable living places -you know, all stuff you expect to see in a minimally critic movie on pre-revolutionary France. One might argue: "Well, this movie is supposed to be about the royal world; you can't blame the creators for not going political". But they went political. With varying degrees of subtlety, the director sought to expose the subjugation of women and LGBT individuals, for which I don't criticize him -au contraire. He made a very good job in that sense. Women being treated solely as children-machines, for example, is a chauvinist issue quite evident in "L'échange des princesses". But I find it rather strange that the inequality of classes, so terrific in the framed period, was just forgotten by the creators.

-Costumes were great: varied and immersive.

Overall, this is movie is watchable. It's a nice pick to watch with family. But it's not good, unfortunately.
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Enjoyable but unexciting period piece
CabbageCustard2 May 2019
This movie focuses on, what I expect, is a little known episode in French history. I didn't know about it anyway. Like most period pieces, this one takes a few liberties with real events and rearranges the timeline slightly in order to make a more compelling story. It is an interesting story too and the movie held my attention all the way through. That being said, however; it must also be said that there is not much in the way of excitement in the story and you won't find yourself getting emotionally involved with the characters. The setting, costumes and other attention to detail are top-notch. The acting is excellent too. Special kudos to the two young actors who play the Spanish Infanta and Louis XV respectively. Both are excellent and I hope we see much more of them in the future. All in all, this movie is well worth watching. It just won't be one that sticks in your memory long after the closing credits roll.
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historical movie of the more sombre and thoughtful kind
myriamlenys23 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
During the Ancien Régime, the royal houses of France and Spain are closely related. This is not always a happy circumstance, since two or three persons might feel like claiming the same throne or the same lands. This time around, it is decided to marry a French teenage princess to a Spanish teenage prince. Meanwhile a French prince who is still a child is to marry an even younger Spanish princess. This is supposed to be a supreme diplomatic success, but still, none of the children and adolescents involved feel all that happy or lucky...

"L'échange" rightly points out that in an Ancien Régime monarchy, the (future) monarchs and their spouses are to be pitied deeply. From the earliest age on they are watched, supervised and reviewed so closely that all hope of privacy flies out of the window : they can barely eat an apple without half the world knowing. At the same time they are very much left to their own devices or asked to perform the most heartbreaking of sacrifices. The result is a combination of grave responsibility and crushing powerlessness, which must warp the soul beyond comprehension.

"L'échange" also indicts the old practice of child marriage, pointing out that there is nothing noble about grabbing some inoffensive youngsters and sacrificing them on the twin altars of money and power. (Because yes, this is what all this talk about durable peace, national interest or dynastic continuity boils down to.)

Now this is a well-made movie with remarkable performances, also from the child actors. The locations, costumes and props combine in an evocative and convincing whole : watching the movie is like travelling in a time machine to the court of the young Louis XVth and his southern counterparts. And yet there is something which keeps "L'échange" from springing to fully dramatic life : I found it interesting, rather than moving and engaging. Perhaps the tone is too measured, too distant ? Or perhaps there's something wrong with the pacing ?

Recommended to the more patient kind of viewer and history lover.
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