At the head of England’s emergence as an empire was the legendary Queen Elizabeth, the virgin queen, daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII and no stranger to scandal. Her power led to a relatively stable and prosperous England, responsible for the production and proliferation of Shakespeare and the fabled Elizabethan era.
Directed by: Shekhar Kapur
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush
Playing at: Lagoon Cinema, 1320 Lagoon Ave., Minneapolis (612) 825-6006
Just exactly how did that happen?
Not by accident. Politics then were just as cutthroat as they are today – except in the 16th century, when a throat was cut, someone died.
“Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” the sequel to 1998’s “Elizabeth,” chronicles the lead-up to the Golden Age of Elizabeth’s rule, with Cate Blanchett reprising her role as the Queen of England.
This film chronicles both Elizabeth’s public and private life. It dramatizes her search for a suitor and her love or lust for Sir Walter Raleigh, played by Clive Owen.
Her personal trials are interwoven with the political era of the time. She is on the brink of holy war with Catholic Spain and King Philip II, played by a snake-like Jordi Mollà. Her closest advisors, including Geoffrey Rush, are worried for her assassination and the takeover of the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, who has alliances with Spain.
The melodrama plays out over nearly two hours, ending with war and then forgiveness.
The 16th century is ugly and this isn’t hidden in this film’s cringe-worthy moments. Torture, religious intolerance, bloody warfare and executions pepper the film in all of their gore, juxtaposing the grandeur of royalty and helping to ground the queen’s political problems in reality.
Dichotomy is what this film does well. Light and dark, Protestant and Catholic are the most obvious. But then there are the scenes cutting back and forth between the queen and those around her in the most climactic moments of the film, where she is most tormented by her inner demons.
We see the range of emotions from the queen, from her stoicism to her temper to her loneliness, and Blanchett does it well.
The cinematography is innovative and beautiful. Often, when in scenes witnessing the queen’s private life, the film is shot through curtains or rafters giving the feeling of the voyeur. Whenever she is in public, the shots are wide and inviting to look at, emphasizing her power and majesty.
What can be faulted in this film are not the performances or the artistic vision. Simply put, the story is boring.
The only way to stave the dullness between regal rants is to analyze the historical accuracy of the film.
The challenge for these storytellers is that we know what happens. In order to entertain, the film can’t delay the action to add suspense; they must simply do it so well we are swept up in the story once again. There is no sweeping. The performances and the cinematography can only carry the film so far, and in what should be an epic tale of regal proportions, “Elizabeth” falls flat.