Saturday, June 5, 2010

#157 The Queen (2006)


Director: Stephen Frears

Cast: Helen Mirren, James Cromwell, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam, Sylvia Syms, Tim McMullan, Robin Soans, Lola Peploe

The central figure of this film is Queen Elizabeth II (played by Helen Mirren) just after the death of Princess Diana. Tony Blair has just been named Prime Minister, and Elizabeth juggles the traditions of her life-long job with the innovation of her people's beliefs. Getting glimpses into the relationship of Diana to the royal family, and leaving the likes and dislikes to ambiguity, the audience of this film never really needs to form an opinion for or against the queen. We sit as quiet contemplators. Do we feel pity for her? Do we understand her? Or are we disgusted?

Politics, as with any country, are strongly connected to fads and passions that are created and felt by the masses. Movements and incidents rise into high-profile, highly emotional situations--sometimes without reason. The film addresses the queen's method of dealing with these things in the past, and her struggles to break tradition for the death of Princess Di-- a woman who no longer was a member of the royal family but had somehow remained a beacon of light for the UK as well as the rest of the western world.

It's a classic struggle of old vs. new, tradition vs. modern, and the stiffness of the characters and plot are appropriate for the content. I enjoyed the film, but I was not blown away. I did not enjoy Alex Jenning's portrayal of Prince Charles.

I was alive when Diana died, and I remember being fascinated by her and the royal family at the time. I had never stopped and wondered what things looked like from the other side, and as a young girl, of course I was oblivious to the political controversies wrapped up in the situation. Even more interestingly, I was very in-tune even as an elementary school girl to what the world (my parents included) were feeling. What did I know or care about Princess Diana? Why was I suddenly so emotionally invested? Emotions are mimetic behavior, and if the pulse of Diana's legacy was strong enough to reach me, I have to imagine how easily it reached others more familiar with her life story.

Diana was indeed a beautiful woman and inspiring philanthropist, but how did her death manage to become larger than her life? And was it really so strange and horrifying that the queen, a woman who was born without choice into her duties to the nation, wanted to follow the traditions she was taught? I can't decide.

Quet. Thought-provoking. Dull. Enlightening. Concise.

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