Wednesday, June 20, 2007
ELIZABETH (1998) - Shekhar Kapur
England's longest serving monarch, Elizabeth I certainly is a character worthy of the screen treatment. And in 1998, Shekhar Kapur brought Elizabeth to the screen in the movie, imaginatively titled... Elizabeth. The movie opens with an ailing Queen Mary, daughter of Henry VIII, ruling a decaying England. She, being devoutly Catholic, is determined to make England once again Catholic and is destroying anybody who is found to be Protestant. Her half-sister, Princess Elizabeth is in league with Protestant dissidents within the kingdom. Mary has her half-sister locked in the Tower of London. But Mary soon dies and Elizabeth succeeds to the throne.
Now a Protestant Queen, Elizabeth finds that her own Bishops have no faith in her and wish her to fall. She is advised by her loyal subjects that the only way to secure her throne is to marry and produce an heir. She is given the choice of suitors from France and Spain, while her own true love, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester is regarded with suspicion by the Queen's court. Plots are hatched to bring about the demise of Elizabeth from as far as the Vatican in Rome, and after a few misguided blunders in her early years as Queen, Elizabeth learns that the only counsel she can keep is her own.
I am the first to admit, I know very little about English history. It was never a subject we covered in school, so what scant knowledge I have, I've picked up from the movies. So I am in no position what so ever to comment on the historical accuracy of the film. However, as a movie, Elizabeth refrains from being a weighty biopic and retains enough intrigue and drama to stay quite entertaining. The heart of the film is in Cate Blanchett's performance as Elizabeth. When we first meet the soon-to-be-queen, she is naive of the politics of state and has a very innocent view of the world. She spends her days in entertaining pursuits, and when she is presented to Queen Mary, she is very timid. But over the course of the film, she gains confidence and authority, and it is a testament to Blanchett's performance that this is fascinating to watch. In fact, the performance is so good that it overshadows everyone else's, which includes heavy-weights like Geoffrey Rush, Christopher Eccleston and Richard Attenborough. However, since this is a film ABOUT Elizabeth, this is to be expected!
The film's photography and production design is beautiful. The period is captured very accurately (as far as I can tell!) in terms of costuming and set design, while the cinematography captures the vibrant colors in rich detail. While some historic epics can be a little daunting, Elizabeth is intriguing enough to hold your attention, and Blanchett's Oscar-nominated performance is worth checking out.