“The Queen”

23 Feb

This movie should really be called “The Prime Minister”. Tony Blair is the one who comes off as the real protagonist of the story. The actor who portrays him did very well, adopting the little mannerisms and speech patterns that make the character a real, recognizable person.

I cannot say the same thing for Helen Mirren, whose work I admire, even though she created a compelling character that is wonderfully regal, stubborn, and sad. I didn’t see her as the be-hatted 80-year-old woman who smiles and collects flowers at charity events. This is probably not Mirren’s fault, but simply the nature of her subject. Queen Elizabeth II remains, after more than fifty years on the throne, an undisclosed figure, who appears on the news for thirty seconds and gives a speech on t.v. every Christmas.

I wonder what kind of research the filmmakers did when creating the character. Did they talk to the Queen’s friends? I doubt they would risk her displeasure. Her family? Right. The Queen herself? a ridiculous suggestion.  I don’t think it’s possible to garner an accurate picture of a person’s inner life from snippets of news reel or so-called documentaries that do nothing but revisit the well-known facts of her public life.

My biggest complaint about this movie isn’t that the film is not well-made, or well-acted and directed. It is that it professes to depict an event that happened in real life, with real people, who have a historic role in their own country, but does nothing but mix truth with speculation, fiction with history, partiality with objectivity. I was appalled by the use of real footage of Diana in the moments before the crash, as if she were public property, to be used at will. Her sons should have prevented it.

I question the propriety of making such a film at this time, barely ten years after Diana’s tragic summer, when the inside story of her death and burial cannot be known for a lifetime. Who knows what really happened? only the people concerned, and they will probably never speak candidly. As it is, this movie, however beautifully done, seems better suited for Lifetime (Television for Women), and their woman-as-victim movie of the week than for the Academy Awards.

I have read some criticism of the movie’s use of the killing of a stag as a metaphor, either for the monarchy or for Diana herself. I think the filmmakers sympathize with the Queen, and they used the striking image of the stag as a symbol for “the end of the monarchy as we know it”. As if Diana had brought down the House of Windsor. It is still standing, and most Britons either support it, or are too indifferent to want its removal. The only thing Diana brought down was herself, and I think her ex-husband and his family probably consider her death, deep down, as the best thing that could have happened to them. Charles has married Camilla Parker-Bowles, he has two handsome heirs and their problematic mother is dead. 

Somebody said the Queen could not possibly be more moved by the death of the stag than by the death of her former daughter-in-law, but I remember the Queen’s public tears during the ceremony to de-commission the royal yacht Britannia, not long after Diana’s death. She couldn’t help being moved by the loss of her luxury yacht, but there was no public sign of personal sorrow for Diana Spencer.

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