TORONTO (Reuters) - "A Little Chaos," may be a film about the building of the gardens of Versailles set in 1682, but director Alan Rickman wants audiences to know that he does not view it as a period piece.
Rather, the movie - which will have its world premiere as the closing gala of the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday - is about the character of Sabine De Barra, a woman trying to navigate a man's world as she comes to grips with her own personal losses.
"The first words in the film are, 'Your majesty.' We don't tell you where you are, it's not important. It's not a documentary, it's not factually correct. It's not meant to be," Rickman told Reuters.
"It's as much about now as it is about then."
The now comes in the form of Sabine, a landscape architect played by Kate Winslet, tasked with creating one of the fountains at the yet to be completed palace of Versailles.
She is a character who "could not possibly have existed," said Rickman, who also plays King Louis XIV in the film.
"(The story) is very much from a woman's perspective and it happens to be about a particular society. But I think there are all sorts of modern, obvious parallels, talking about where women have no function within a society, they are there merely to be decorative," he said.
"It's there just as a thread through the film that this strong, active woman with a past and an agenda that she's having to deal with, is trying to function in a world that's completely owned and run by men."
The film put Rickman in the director's chair for the first time since 1997's "The Winter Guest," though he has directed for the theater during that time, where he said some of the fundamentals are the same.
"The way that you talk to actors and what your beliefs are, it's the same," he said. "You're still talking about who are you, what's your story, where did you come from, what did you have for breakfast."
Part of the reason for the 17-year gap in film directing was the time commitment required to play the role of Severus Snape in the eight movies of the "Harry Potter" franchise that were released from 2001 to 2011.
"It's like opening a Pandora's box and going, 'Oh, yeah, I remember this, what was in here last time? Oh, it's all new,'" Rickman said.
Although he has another directing project waiting in the wings, Rickman said he plans on doing some other work first, including going to South Africa next month to shoot for his role in "Eye in the Sky," a film about drone warfare.
"I need to smell some different roses," he said.
(Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson, G Crosse)