Loneliness of Power

The first thing you'll notice watching Elizabeth is the serious-minded camera work. The introductory segment of three heretics being burned at the stake is shown mostly from high or jaunty angles, elegantly sweeping camera moves, brisk but strong cuts, and creative use of the frame. We come down to Earth once we come to the real action and story of the film, but the expert cinematography remains throughout.

Before we get too far looking at the technical aspects of Elizabeth, be aware there is a story here. And a most intriguing one, actually. Queen Elizabeth I was one of England's most unusual monarchs. This illigitimate protestant daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn made an unlikely succession to the throne in an officially Catholic England. She then proceeded to ...

The commentary track on the DVD only features the director, Shekhar Kapur, and is one of the more informative commetaries I've heard to this point (not sure I can claim to have heard a lot as yet). Unfortunately, I'm on a bit of a deadline with this one, so can't listen all the way through on this track. I'll have to get my own copy sometime to be able to absorb Kapur's words at leisure.

What's more is that it would be fascinating to compare the script here against what really happened with Queen Elizabeth I? Yes, a film must stand on its own, which is why we get embellishments and inventions for dramatic purposes. Still, it's something of indication of the richness of the material that questions like this come up in an intriguing way.

I do take issue with some small choices of the director. The use of flashes to white when Elizabeth attains power calls too much attention to itself. Likewise, the flipping of the camera upside down to match the perspective of a man being tortured. The ideas are not necessarily bad ones, but their execution is too strong, overpowering what is happening in the narrative. And then there's the scene where the character of Walsingham is introduced. Kapur admits in commentary track that the scene has no narrative value, just character. It's a small thing because of its placement so early in the movie, but what takes place in the scene calls out for explanation that's never answered. These are all just nits to pick - the movie is astounding, but it does fall short in some small ways.

What can I say about Cate Blanchett? Her performance is complex and subtle, and fascinating to watch. She seems to be made for this role. Everyone around her sparkles and shines from the earnestness of Richard Attenborough, to the reserved malice of Christopher Eccleston, to the calculated loyalty of Geoffrey Rush. Joseph Fiennes may have selected this part too close to the more lively Shakespeare in Love, and it probably takes a little bit of doing to separate the actor from the part, but it's not really that much of a distraction.

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