Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Queen:Movie review

"Uneasy the head that wears the crown" Henry IV, part 2

As the film opens with Helen Mirren posing as the Queen for an official portrait on election day in a flowing purple robe (the color of royalty) adorned with the medals of state, the viewer thinks this will be a remarkable film. When she turns and stares into the camera before it pans away from her face and, with an additional mere twitch and the slightest shift of her neck, imbues herself with the public's perception of Queen Elizabeth II's personality, the viewer knows it will be remarkable.


The film revolves around the events of the week following the Princess of Wales's death on August 31, 1997. Juxtaposed between actual footage of the arrival of Diana's coffin back to England by a jet in the Royal flight (a privilege the Queen did not wish to extend until Charles informs her they can arrange for her to be sent via a commercial flight with an hour stopover in Manchester), images of her life as a royal, and parts of the funeral procession, we see a Queen totally ignorant of the wishes of her subjects for the first time in her reign. Encouraged by her idiotic husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, who is portrayed with a hairsbreadth of hating Diana--not to be forgotten is the irony that he is an outsider, himself brought into the bosom of the English royal family as a spouse, yet renders the loudest, most unconscionable opinions about the Princess's life and personality, and many of us can relate to this kind of situation within our own families--the Queen decides to stay at her forty thousand acre estate called Balmoral and keeps both William and Harry in the dark about what's occurring in the country viz-a-viz their motehr's death by removing the radio, television and newspapers from their quarters.

The public begins to turn against the royal family, despising their indifference. We are shown scenes of them talking about deer hunting in the living room over gin-and-tonics while watching montages on television of Diana's life on the television, as well as a scene of Philip and his entourage stalking a magnificent 14 point stag on the moors--the scenes compiled partly as a result of discrete interviews with people 'in the know' and partly from 'informed imagination. It falls on Tony Blair as the newly elected priminister to advise the Queen she is in error and eventually, when the Queen's folly and intransigence becomes ludricous, he compiles a list of things she must do in order to save the monarchy that includes getting her family to London as soon as possible, accepting a state funeral when she wanted it to be private, and actually paying her respects at Diana's coffin in person and flying the royal standard at half mast at every royal residence including Buckingham Palace. The latter has never been done before, and it is all the more galling in that the Queen stripped Diana of her HRH title and thus regards her again as the commoner she once was. One can experience the Queen's abject horror in Mirren's face and by the stiff British upper lip turning slowly upward before our eyes. Moreover, the insult that it is the British Primeminster advising the Queen wounds her psyche deeply, especially when one understands that royal protocol dictates that the charade to be maintained at all times is that it is the Queen who appoints and advises her Primeinister on affairs of state.

A very moving moment occurs in the film when the audience relives emotions experienced on the day of the funeral while listening to a portion of the eulogy given by Diana's brother, though the tears do not remain in our eyes long because this time we can see the Queen's deadpan face as she sits listening in the front pew inside Westminster Abbey. Also, I had the sense that the director may haved inserted a bit of fun for the benefit of British audiences (and those foreigners in the know) by poking oblique fun at Blair's promise to change Britain radically when he came to power, yet ten years down the road there's been no major change at all, the monarchy still survives, and he's become America's poodle.


Like Cherie Blair, I am not disposed favorably toward the monarchy, but having grown up in Northern Ireland where one could not escape the public's appetite and adulation for all things royal, I have had to fight a natural inclination to watch them if they're on television. Mirren is seductive. But then the monarchy is a seductive institution, which is why it survives. The Queen has fought hard to maintain its air of mystery. A shrewd woman, she understood that the elixir of secrecy and mystery is what made their subjects rever both the family and instititution and thus ensured its unquestioned existence by the majority-- though now that the curtain has been pulled open on that world of privelege and familial shenanigans and we see they're not any better than we are and that they have a perverted vision of their 'upper class-ness', it will inevitably lead to their demise--the only question being when, exactly. All in all, a very good film and well worth seeing.

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3 comments:

shari said...

The Queen is not just a nice lady with a big castle. The Crown is a representative of the common good, the lessons of history, and the rule of Natural Law. Life is a constant struggle good vs. stupidity. We have to learn tolerance. The Queen tolerates. That's what I like about the film and it is portrayed so well. I was completely lost in the dynamics of the tradition of the Crown.

My father died and wasn't there to help me raise my children. I can also sympathize with the Queen. Not only does she have her own children to worry about especially their safety, she has the safety of all the children in England. I cannot imagine the personal worry.

I can often hear my father's voice giving me advice about my own children. I have said more than once "If your grandfather was here, he would say". I'm very sure that the Queen has the voice of her family and has an abundance of personal stories and she must use them for her own sanity.

I worked in American law firms for over 20 years, the firms that represent the White House and the big international corporate clients. I was behind the scenes in politics and economics where the deals they cut affect everyone in America and most Americans don't know. It's chaos over in America. Sheer utter chaos.

Our Crown is a shift every 8 years from one thoughtless family to another back and forth. We're all sea-sick. After I saw this film, twice now, I have even more information to support the advice that we should turn this place over to a nation with a track record for tradition and common sense. Even at it's worst, Great Britain hasn't compromised itself to a resemble an old washing machine that bounces across the room when it goes into spin cycle every 8 years.

I've been advocating that we are "Better off British" than stumbling around in the dark trying to govern ourselves, always suspicious of each other and our leader's motives. I cannot envision the Queen selling the British people down the drain and lolling off to South America with a suitcase full of cash, and putting Buckinham Palace in receivership, leaving the British people standing there holding the bill. That goes on in America, daily.

I now understand the argument for why people should not govern themselves. At least you have a Parliament. We are stuck with this 3-tier balance and check thing that resembles a rotary engine on the now defunct 1980's Mazda. Everybody apppoints their friends and relatives without regard to their qualifications or intelligence. It's a free-for-all. We have law schools that will give you a license to kill before they will teach the integrity of law. The voting thing was compromised years ago.

The grab for power in 1775 may have been more a grab for the Royal Treasury and a jump-start on the minerals and land value by the few. When they rid themselves of the Crown in 1776, it was the golden opportunity for personal agendas to sweep in.

Word must have gone out all over the world, come on over and purge whatever you want because there's no sense of order or leadership and these idiots will listen to any sales pitch you have.

When my family came from Sweden in 1860, my patron grandfather wrote in Swedish back to his family, stay in Sweden. They did. The letter said that this was a dreadful place with the most unspeakable acts that he wouldn't describe, and that if he had the money, he would pack up and leave and go back to Sweden, which at that time was probably one of the most remote and isolated, cold and freezing, dismal places on earth. My family in Sweden, meanwhile, under the Swedish Crown, has done well. Nobody has gone nutz, like some of my cousins.

My great-grandfather's first job in America was a prison guard at Andersonville, the notorious civil war prison. He died shortly after he wrote the letters.

This family is completely shattered, along with millions of other families, due to the chaos, lust for power, greed, and sheer idiocracy of the few individuals who usurped the power and have never had any regard for the condition of the American people.

We were stolen by self-appointed Crowns who set up their own massive estates and imported their own heads of state. We may as well be Prussia in 1890. We have more gated estates here than they had in any monarchy. The rural estates for the privileged are popping up in every hill and valley. The land grab that is going on right now is nothing compared to 1776. Matter of Fact: The Crown should consider purchasing large parcels of land right now at tremendously reduced prices, before the other nations realize that everything is for sale for the right price.

We have a lot of other Crowns showing up with their checkbooks. It would be nice to know which parcel of land would be the landed estate of the British Crown so we could plop ourselves next to it for security.

If the nations of Europe would throw open the doors and stop complicating it with immigration laws, they would find former European families showing up en mass. If you run out of support for the Crown, just make it known that you are accepting reverse immmigration from families who left Europe in 1800. You'll soon find yourself overrun with applications. Why do you think we flock to Europe on vacation annoying everybody looking for our lost families?

Damian McNicholl said...

Thank for your comments, Shari, though I don't agree with your assessment of the Monarchy's role. Dig into Britain's political system and the stink of corruption will also rise. Some of your other points, I didn't fully grasp.

I do believe that people should always govern themselves with appointed representatives, not monarchs, etc. Because some of those representatives become corrupt is no reason to say the system cannot work. It means we have to strive to make it work and not be apathetic--which we have become. Apathy is what is dangerous.

Anonymous said...

The late Quentin Crisp spoke truthfully, if bluntly, that Princess Diana's own fast and shallow lifestyle contributed to her demise: "She could have been Queen of England -- and she was swanning about Paris.   What disgraceful behavior. Going about saying she wanted to be the queen of hearts. The vulgarity of it is so overpowering." (Atlanta Southern Voice, 1 July 1999).

The "queen of hearts" remains the poster girl of superficial culture and narcissistic celebrities who go emoting about everything and nothing of substance.  But who was she really?

Both Diana and her brother, Charles Spencer, suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder caused by their mother's abandoning them as young children.  A google search reveals that Diana is considered a case study in BPD by mental health professionals.

For Charles Spencer, BPD meant insatiable sexual promiscuity (his wife was divorcing him at the time of Diana's death).

For Diana, BPD meant intense insecurity and insatiable need for attention and affection which even the best husband could never fulfill.  From a BPD perspective, it's clear that the Royal family did not cause her "problems". Rather, she brought her multiple problems into the marriage, and the Royal family was hapless to cope with them.

Her illness, untreated, sowed the seeds of her fast and unstable lifestyle, and sadly, her tragic fate.