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Film / A Little Chaos

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Do you believe in order over landscape?

King Louis XIV: And what protection can the gardener afford this rose from the harsh elements of change?
Sabine De Barra: Patience, care, and a little warmth from the sun are our best hope, your Majesty.

A Little Chaos is a 2014 film directed by Alan Rickman.

André le Nôtre is the king's gardener, commissioned to build the gardens of Versailles. He hires a relatively unknown gardener, Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet), to build an outdoor ballroom on the grounds. While the common-born Sabine navigates the perils of the French court, André wrestles with his devotion to his work and his growing attraction to Sabine, despite his existing marriage.

A Little Chaos is the second and last film directed by Alan Rickman, and the second film featuring him and Kate Winslet since 1995's Sense and Sensibility.


A Little Chaos contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Been There, Shaped History: It seems that Sabine gave Louis XIV the idea of marrying Madame de Maintenon in secret.
  • Betty and Veronica: André le Nôtre (Archie) is married with Madame le Nôtre (Veronica), who is a haughty bitch who cheats on him. He falls in love with Sabine (Betty), a simple and honest commoner.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early in the film, Madame le Nôtre asks André to button up one of her gloves. The same glove is found at the flooded garden, revealing her role behind it.
  • Death of a Child: Sabine's daughter died years ago in a road accident.
  • Establishing Character Moment: André le Nôtre is introduced very carefully aligning a tree using precise instruments, and working even as the sun sets to make sure it is planted to his specifications on time.
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  • Fish out of Water: The commoner Sabine among the nobles at court.
  • Flashback: The deaths of Sabine's daughter and husband is told in a flashback.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Madame le Nôtre has multiple affairs (with his reluctant permission), justifying it as both of them being allowed to seek happiness elsewhere. Sabine's husband also had a mistress and he and their child died on a visit to her. But André's attraction to Sabine is justified, though she's unable to reciprocate while he is still married.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Madame le Nôtre has cheated on her husband for years, but when she understands that he is in love with Sabine, she gets jealous and decides to ruin her career: she plans to destroy the garden that Sabine is building.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Repeatedly, to show the physical work that goes into gardening, especially without modern equipment.
  • Historical Domain Character: André Le Nôtre, King Louis XIV, Philippe, Duke of Orleans, Madame Palatine, Madame De Montespan, Antoine Lauzun...
  • King Incognito: After the death of his wife, King Louis XIV retreats alone to a pear garden... where Sabine is supposed to meet a gardener there to exchange perennials. He allows her to believe that he is that person until she realizes who he is, and then asks her to go on as they were.
  • Married to the Job: André le Nôtre is very obviously more devoted to his work than to his wife.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: King Louis XIV. He fluctuates between being warm and affectionate and cold and exacting, sometimes to the same person within the same conversation. It's implied that he is like this all the time, to the point that the builders of Versailles constantly have to rework their plans to his specifications, even if it's overbudget or physically impossible.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The film starts with an opening line stating that there is an outdoor ballroom at Versailles, and "that much is true." The rest is a mix of creative license and real history.

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