Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Queen

I've just finished watching The Queen twice in the last 24 hours. The first time stone cold sober and the second with a liter of wine coursing through my decrepit old veins. Don't ask.

It is not a task for the faint of heart to play living people let alone living Monarchs. Every performance in the film is stellar yet it must be acknowledged that Mirren's performance as HRH Elizabeth the Second is a master class in the art and craft of film acting.

Students of the craft of film acting would do well to watch her while imagining for themselves what the setups must have been, the camera positions, the lens choices and lighting, the constraints and contributions of costume, hair and makeup.

Students of the art of film acting must simply stand in awe of her emotional restraint, intellectual discretion, physical control and economy of choice.

It's very, very rare to see the art and craft of film acting so seamlessly and effortlessly joined.

However Dame Helen is not the subject of my thoughts this evening.

Rather it is the director, Stephen Frears, and screenwriter, Peter Morgan and their art, craft and guile in the area of social commentary.

There are elements in the film that could only have been crafted by people whose attention has not been diverted from the goings on we have witnessed during the intervening years since Diana's death.

In the film we are reminded of the depths to which the popularity of the Royal Family had sunk during those days in the summer of 1997. Yet simultaneously we are given to reflect by way of subtle cues here and there that yet to come in the fall of 2002 Elizabeth Windsor was celebrated as a beloved Monarch who had served her subjects for 50 faithful years with nary a mention of that difficult week 5 years previously.

The film also reminds that there was a time when Tony Blair was not only atop the hill but was the unchallenged master of it and all that could be surveyed from it's apex. The moment in the last minutes when ER tells Tony that the headlines she has just been subjected to could be his at a moments notice for reasons he cannot now imagine is a stroke of screenwriting brilliance.
I haven't looked into it at all but I would not be surprised to learn that the release of the film coincided with a short lived resurgence of Blair popularity in the polls as the UK was reminded of these events.

The journey of transformation the Blair character undergoes as he comes to his own understanding of the character qualities required for long term survival in the game of power politics is another genius stroke. Unfortunately the light of understanding he glimpses is that which illuminates the way of a monarch in a long line of royal succession not that which may sort out the path of an elected Member of Parliament let alone of a Prime Minister. I don't believe that's merely incidental on the part of Frears (director) or Morgan (writer) given the past 5 years.

So too is the reminder of the once ubiquitous Alaistar Campbell's fall from grace. He who, according to the film, coined the phrase "the people's Princess" but in latter years was banished in disgrace for having used the same skills in helping to falsely market the Iraq war to the British people. He tells Blair "you owe me" after Blair's speech where he uses the subsequently famous phrase. One can only surmise that he was not apparently owed quite enough.

Compelling, masterful, entertaining film making all round.

To atone for my sins I promise to rent it twice when it's released.

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