Sofia Coppola’s Cinematic Scrapbook ‘Archive’ Is an Ode to Girlhood

Coppola's debut book is perfect for any fan wanting a peek behind the curtain, but it's also a wonderful look inside the career of one of the most consistent filmmakers working today.

Sofia Coppola rests between takes of Marie Antoinette at the Palace of Versailles. Sofia Coppola, from Archive (MACK, 2023). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

“Across all my films, there is a common quality: there is always a world and there is always a girl trying to navigate it. That’s the story that will always intrigue me.” So Sofia Coppola remarks to journalist Lynn Hirschberg toward the start of the filmmaker’s Archive. This self-described scrapbook lays out all of Coppola’s work via set photos, scrawled notes and anecdotes, curating a comprehensive collection that shines a light on her singular perspective as a writer and director.

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As she admits, Sofia Coppola has always been dedicated to depicting girlhood and womanhood—and the gray area in between. From the taboo subject matter of the Virgin Suicides, which she calls “my first attempt at bringing my idea of girlhood to life,” to her upcoming biopic Priscilla, she’s captured the familiar growing pains of femininity with equal parts darkness and dreaminess. She thrives on that specificity, invoking her particular point of view in several of the letters and emails pictured in Archive, which were sent to authors whose work she adapted. In a typewritten note addressed to Lady Antonia Fraser, author of the biography Marie Antoinette: The Journey, Coppola says “I know I will be able to express how a girl experiences the grandeur of a palace, the clothes, parties, rivals, and ultimately having to grow up. I can identify with her role of coming from a strong family and fighting for her own identity.”

Kirsten Dunst on the set of Marie Antoinette. Andrew Durham, from Archive (MACK, 2023). Courtesy of Andrew Durham and MACK.

Female interiority preoccupies Coppola more than anything else, and it’s something that she expertly contrasts and heightens with place. Each and every film—and each and every character—is anchored to its setting, whether that’s Lost in Translation in Tokyo, Marie Antoinette in the Palace of Versailles, Somewhere in the Chateau Marmont or The Bling Ring in Paris Hilton’s mansion (which, according to Coppola, was just as “memorable and immersing” as any other location). 

Hanna R. Hall on the set of The Virgin Suicides. Sofia Coppola, from Archive (MACK, 2023). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

The filmmaker’s affinity for capturing the feel of a place is on full display in the behind-the-scenes photos displayed in the book. As a child, she thought of suburbia as “fun and exotic,” making her romanticize the affluent town of The Virgin Suicides with a hint of surrealism amidst a haze of innocence and ignorance. For The Beguiled, filming was largely limited to an expansive and remote New Orleans mansion owned by Jennifer Coolidge, who’s one of several unexpected names mentioned throughout. Coppola insists, “I wanted to show [the women] in their isolation, their desperation, and their repressed desire.”

Elle Fanning on set of The Beguiled. Andrew Durham, from Archive (MACK, 2023). Courtesy of Andrew Durham and MACK.

The filmmaker also takes the time to write about her muses, namely the two actresses who have essentially grown up with her, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning. Dunst has been with Coppola from the beginning, with a meeting between the two for The Virgin Suicides bringing “the girls in [her] head to life.” They’re an inextricable part of each other’s careers and creative processes, with Coppola even saying that it helped her to picture Dunst while writing the screenplay for both Marie Antoinette and The Beguiled.

Fanning’s working relationship began on the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion-winning Somewhere, an exercise in simplicity for Coppola. Of their momentous first meeting, she says, “I met Elle when she was eleven: she was wearing glasses and had the best smile and laugh.” The impression was a lasting one that blossomed into further collaborations and a familial sense; Elle and Kirsten are “like sisters” to Coppola.

The family that she shows in Archive is largely female, in spite of the ever-present reputation of her father, Francis Ford Coppola. Sofia presents pictures of her mother, camera in hand, diligently recording the production of her daughter’s films; several photos of her own daughters, Romy and Cosima, make their way in too, with sweet captions like, “My daughter Romy visiting the set, like I used to.” Francis Ford Coppola finds space in the book too, but this particular emphasis on the women in Sofia’s life speaks to her overall vision.

Bill Murray behind the scenes of On the Rocks. Andrew Durham, from Archive (MACK, 2023). Courtesy of Andrew Durham and MACK.

Of course, in terms of frequent collaborators and paternal figures, there’s the matter of Bill Murray. Coppola surely has enough stories with and about the actor to fill another book (she only hints at the anxiety of her leading man for Lost in Translation sort of saying yes but not signing a contract, then thankfully showing up to shoot in Tokyo at the last minute), but like Dunst and Fanning, he plays the role of her muse. They most recently teamed up for On the Rocks, where Murray plays a version of Coppola’s father and “dapper dad[s]” like him—men who are, in Coppola’s words, at times “inappropriate” but with the capacity to be “nostalgic and fun.” The film also speaks to a uniquely female identity crisis she was experiencing, unsure of who she was “outside of being a wife and a mother.”

Cailee Spaeny on set of Coppola’s upcoming film, Priscilla. Sofia Coppola, from Archive (MACK, 2023). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

A similar crisis is at the center of Coppola’s latest film, Priscilla, which is chronicled in exquisite detail. Adapted from Priscilla Presley’s autobiography, the movie sees Coppola tackle the process of a girl growing up once more, this time with a Pygmalion-esque twist. She emphasizes how Priscilla’s image was the product of Elvis’ ideal, and how she grew and discovered herself in the midst of it all. 

Sofia Coppola is a long way from the ‘90s and The Virgin Suicides, when she made a point of sporting dresses and slides on set, “because that’s not what directors ever wore. At the time, the few women directors there were dressed like guys, and I was determined to still be feminine while directing.” These days, she wears jeans, sweatshirts and necessarily close-toed shoes while behind the camera, and unlike when she started, she’s one of many women at the top of her field.

Archive (2023) by Sofia Coppola published by MACK is available here.

Sofia Coppola’s Cinematic Scrapbook ‘Archive’ Is an Ode to Girlhood