Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Elizabeth (1998)



Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen [closing credits title]
Elisabet / Elisabeth / Elizabeth [Swedish title]
    GB © 1998 PolyGram Filmed Entertainment. PC: PolyGram Filmed Entertainment presents – Working Title Films – in association with Channel Four Films.P : Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Alison Owen. D: Shekhar Kapur. SC: Michael Hirst. CIN: Remi Adelfarasin – negative ratio 1,37:1 – screening ratio 1,85:1. PD: John Myhre. AD: Jonathan Lee. Set dec: Peter Howitt. SFX: George Gibbs. VFX: Peter Chiang. Cost: Alexandra Byrne. Makeup, hair: Jenny Shircore. M: David Hirschfelder. S: Mark Auguste. ED: Jill Bilcock. Casting: Simone Pereira Hind (as Simone Ireland), Vanessa Pereira.
    C: Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth I of England), Geoffrey Rush (Francis Walshingham), Joseph Fiennes (Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester), Richard Attenborough (William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley), Christopher Eccleston (Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk), Kathy Burke (Mary I of England), Fanny Ardant (Mary of Guise), Vincent Cassel (Henry, Duc d’Anjou), Emily Mortimer (Kat Ashley), Kelly Macdonald (Isabel Knollys), John Gielgud (Pope Pius V), Daniel Craig (John Ballard), James Frain (Álvaro de la Quadra), Edward Hardwicke (Henry FitzAlan, 19th Earl of Arundel), Jamie Foreman (Earl of Sussex), Terence Rigby (Bishop Stephen Gardiner), Angus Deayton (Waad, Chancellor of the Exchequer), Amanda Ryan (Lettice Howard), Kenny Doughty (Sir Thomas Elyot), George Yiasoumi (Philip II of Spain), Wayne Sleep (dance tutor), Alfie Allen (Arundel’s son), Lily Allen (lady-in-waiting)
    Loc: Bamburgh Castle, Alnwick Castle, Aydon Castle, Warkworth Castle (Northumberland), York Minster, Bolton Castle (North Yorkshire), Durham Cathedral, Raby Castle (County Durham), Haddon Hall (Derbyshire), Leeds Castle (Kent), Middle Temple (Holborn).
    Helsinki premiere: 19.3.1999 Tennispalatsi, distributor: Scanbox, with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Jaana Wiik / Stan Saanila – tv: 9.11.2002 Nelonen, etc. (MTV3, TV5) – vhs: 2000 Scanbox – VET 101179 – K14 – 3395 m / 124 min
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Cate Blanchett / Helsinki Festival), 15 Aug 2017

This version of the life of Elizabeth I of England (1533–1603) emerges from the conventional territory of the prestige film, the costume film, and the heritage film, but the Indian director Shekhar Kapur casts a foreign look into a familiar story of historical tragedy. Michael Hirst's original screenplay takes considerable liberties. The film is only very freely based on history.

The predecessors are formidable. Sarah Bernhardt's Les Amours de la Reine Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth, 1912) was the film that launched the feature film as the commercial success format in the U.S. thanks to its American distributor, the Famous Players. Lou Tellegen was cast as Essex in this adaptation of a play by Émile Moreau.

Bette Davis and Errol Flynn starred in Michael Curtiz's tragic masterpiece The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (Warner Bros., 1939) based on Maxwell Anderson's success play.

These legendary adaptations may have been the first high profile films to highlight a love affair between a woman and a much younger man, the age difference of Elizabeth and Essex being 30 years.

Shekhar Kapur and Michael Hirst's Elizabeth story has also a love angle, this time of the young Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, here portrayed as a treacherous man both privately and politically.

The young Elizabeth is cast into a wolf pack of violent intriguers. She learns not to trust anyone, and to everybody's surprise she survives and emerges victorious.

This year we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and Elizabeth is also a brutally violent account of the English Reformation. Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, had introduced Reformation, cut his ties with the Pope, and launched the Anglican Church. Queen Mary reintroduced Catholicism, and the film starts with Protestants burned at the stake. Elizabeth, a Protestant, will need to reverse this.

The French House of Guise, to carry a central role in the Huguenot Wars which started soon after the events of this movie, features prominently. Mary of Guise (a memorable Fanny Ardant) is Queen of Scots (and the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots). The House of Guise played a key part in St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre (1572); the assassination of the Duke of Guise took place in 1588; both subjects are central in the history of the cinema.

Let's also remember that the events of the Spanish Inquisition in Friedrich Schiller's play and Giuseppe Verdi's opera Don Carlos take place at the same time (1560). Ivan the Terrible reigned in Russia. The king of Sweden and Finland was Gustaf Vasa who introduced Reformation to the North. A time of violent terror everywhere.

We are screening this international breakthrough film of Cate Blanchett together with the Helsinki Festival in the context of the Finnish premiere of Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto (2015), a display of Cate Blanchett as a "woman with a thousand faces".

But even in this breakthrough film of hers she already displays a thousand faces. From the sincere and carefree young woman she turns into a self-willed and steel-nerved "Virgin Queen" with a shock mask of white lead and cropped hair. There are aspects of the monster and the clown in her final look. There is no private life anymore. She is now married to England.

Against the competition of the likes of Sarah Bernhardt and Bette Davis, Cate Blanchett creates an unforgettable, personal and original performance.

Among the most memorable scenes are the ones where Elizabeth exercises giving a speech in a Queenly manner. These scenes are for me the anthology pieces of the movie. These moments, as well as the line of dialogue about "not being afraid of one's own shadow", and the performance of Geoffrey Rush as advisor to the monarch make me ponder whether David Seidler might have been inspired by this movie for his screenplay to The King's Speech (2010).

A brilliant print of a movie with a dark and ambitious concept of cinematography by Remi Adelfarasin.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: OUR PROGRAM NOTE BY STELLA BRUZZI:
BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: OUR PROGRAM NOTE BY STELLA BRUZZI:

Kartoittaessaan kuningatar Elisabetin valtakauden varhaisvuosia (hän hallitsi 1558–1603) ohjaaja Shekhar Kapur ei kuvaa voittojen, rauhan ja imperiumin rakentamisen kultakautta vaan keskittyy levottomuuteen ja väkivaltaan, jotka edelsivät niitä. Elisabet ei ole englantilaisuuden ylistys. Sille on ominaista pikemminkin etäisyydenotto kuin ihailu aihettaan kohtaan, mihin näkökulmaan on epäilemättä vaikuttanut ohjaajan tausta. Intian mantereella syntynyt ohjaaja tunnetaan Bandit Queenista ja monista muista intialaisista elokuvista.
    Toisinaan Kapur käyttää yksinkertaisesti kuuluisia historiallisia maalauksia pukujensa ja kompo-sitioidensa esikuvina, mutta enimmäkseen hän lähestyy aihettaan tuorein silmin ja tuo elokuvaan dynaamisuutta, joka perustuu eroon.
    Elisabet on äärimmäisen tyylitelty elokuva varsinkin kuvaukseltaan. Alkujaksossa, jossa protes-tantteja poltetaan kerettiläisinä, kamera syöksähtelee, leikkaus on rajuja ja liekit pelottavia. Etusijalla on barbaarisuus eikä uskonsotien historiallinen todellisuus. Kapur tarkkailee epäuskoisena oletettavasti hienostuneen sivilisaation primitivismiä. Hänen aistillinen kuvaustyylinsä viehättyy ja fetisoi 1500-luvun hovin ääri-ilmiöitä. Ristiriita ja epävakaus ovat liikemoottoreita kun kuvauksen kohteina ovat Elisabetin ja Dudleyn amour fou, Maryn tuskallinen kamppailu uskontonsa ja sisartaan kohtaan tuntemansa kiintymyksen välillä, paavin vaarallinen ja korruptoitunut hovi kätyreineen ja pahaenteisine etäispesäkkeineen, Norfolkin kiihkeä vallan pakkomielle, ja lopulta Elisabetin päätös uhrata itsensä maansa puolesta.
    Elisabetin tanssit Dudleyn kanssa ovat täynnä tunnetta. Kun he ensi kerran tanssivat voltaa, he ovat synkronissa, ja kamera tanssii heidän mukanaan. Toisella kerralla Elisabet on saanut selville, että Dudley on naimisissa, he tanssivat epätahdissa, ja kamera pysyy loitolla.
    Ylenpalttinen kiihkeys voi olla kuluttavaa, ja eräät juonittelut ovat varsin luonnosmaisesti esitettyjä, mutta Elisabet on rohkea ja koskettava elokuva, kaukana brittiläisten heritage-elokuvien steriilisyydestä ja pahvinukkemaisista stereotyyppihahmoista. Kuvauksessa eivät tällä kertaa korostu hierarkia, etuoikeudet ja pidätellyt äänenpainot. Elisabetin hovi on kaikkialla väijyvän vaaran pimeä tyyssija. Jopa uskollinen neuvonantaja Walshingham on liukas juonittelija.
    Loppuratkaisu, jossa Elisabet torjuu nuoruutensa ja seksuaalisuutensa, kerii tukkansa, maalaa kasvonsa valkoisiksi ja julistaa, että ”olen naimisissa Englannin kanssa” on hieman kiireisesti esitetty. Mutta Kapur tavoittaa aikakauden intensiteetin ja outouden. Sen toiseuden.

– Stella Bruzzin mukaan (Sight & Sound, November 2008) AA 15.8.2017

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