Volume 92, Issue 54
Wednesday, December 9, 1998
and to all a goodnight
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Blanchett icy hot as Elizabeth
Graphic by © Brahm Wiseman
By Chris Simmons
The lives of England's monarchs have historically garnered much public interest and Shekhar Kapur's new historical epic, Elizabeth, demonstrates exactly why.
Cate Blanchett stars as the young queen who inherits a troubled throne in order to lead England into its "golden age." Her ascent is uneasily anticipated by the Church of England which brands her as heretic and her claim to sovereignty is contested by both internal enemies and foreign foes.
When she is told her only escape is to marry and produce a heir, Elizabeth resists attempts to legitimate her power by an attachment to a man. She eventually fortifies the throne through the force of her individual will.
Needless to say, the film tellingly shows how a queen must not be the passive battlefield for various parties interested in ruling but an active, decisive leader. Fine camera work mirrors the voyeurism of the queen's cohorts but it is inconsistent.
As well, the complexity of the history being rendered necessitates that a considerable amount of fact be covered in a short duration, as the film runs three hours and five minutes. While the film succeeds in producing a tight coherent narrative, which includes the necessary facts, psychological depth is expected to be covered in too few lines, thus sequences with psychological twists seem rushed. But perhaps the film lacks depth only by virtue of telling a story so incredible that we are not quickly satiated by small morsels.
The narrative builds toward seemingly inevitable disaster until Elizabeth learns what moral sacrifices must be made to preserve the state. Elizabeth was an incredible woman whose innocence, passion and honesty was destroyed by the necessary sacrifice of her private passions for the good of the state. And this is what the film triumphs in evoking, to keep her throne and her life she must accept her body as a property of the state, a fate she accepts when she takes her nation as the only suitable partner for marriage.
Elizabeth forsakes her innocence and through a series of murders she learns bloodlines are only kept intact by spilling the blood of enemies. The necessity of cynicism and brutal violence is what makes Elizabeth a powerful critique of England's so-called "golden age."
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