“Queen Elizabeth I” by Shekhar Kapur and Written by Michael Hirst
Rarely, a movie can depict the reality of historical events. Seldom, a movie can convey the idea of the book taken as its background source without distorting the larger part of an author’s fiction. Even rarer, the moving pictures can make an audience feel pleased with what it sees on the screen if the people first read the book that served as a background for the film. The only thing about any movie which makes people satisfied is the emotional side: most of the up-to-date movies aptly use psychology to make the audience sympathize and empathize with the actors.
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“Queen Elizabeth I” directed by Shekhar Kapur and written by Michael Hirst is nothing else but a play on human emotions. The historical factor seems to be of little importance to the director who must have looked for only a good profit and did not aim to shoot a trustworthy film that would outline the hardships, sorrows, and realia of the epoch. Queen Elizabeth I calls for human’s passion, but not for the serenity of mind. The main idea of the film, according to Shekhar Kapur, seems to be outlining the darkness and sinister spirit of the era; no hopes are left for the future; even a monarch lives not much better than a pauper as the level of responsibility is higher for him; thus, the dangers are also larger.
Was it really so? Were there no intellectuals and politically brilliant people (like Queen Elizabeth, in particular) as well as artistic and musical talents? Trustworthy historical facts prove that there were a lot of promising people, but the director of the film does not obligatory has to know it to make the movie appealing and popular. Thus, the main theme of the whole film is love versus political discordance as well as religious conflicts and the breakdown of the Dark Ages symbolizing the beginning of the end of the overall Pope’s power.
Distorted facts outrage any sober historian, professional, or amateur, who has taken a chance to have an attentive glimpse into the historical archives to get an image of the real Elizabeth I. She was educated, politically-driven, and strong. She knew very well how to apply her political power and carefully considered her steps and words never being noticed in any sexual affair with a man despite the sheepish rumors which never got any confirmation. Queen Elizabeth was intelligent (fluently speaking Greek, French, Italian, and Latin, which was the language of all political affairs at that time) and inaccessible – this is the correct image of the honorable woman who ruled England in the 16th century. On the contrary, featuring the Queen, Cate Blanchett was childishly playful and unsure as her flirting with the Duke of France made the competent audience feel disgusted which real Elizabeth could never cause. Cate Blanchett looked neither confident or politically influential nor could she transmit the inner strength and powerful charisma which Elizabeth I possessed. Fidgeting on the throne, Cate Blanchett makes nervous movements trying hard to look like a royal daughter of the slaughtered mother.
On the other hand, the actress did a great job. Her acting perfectly fulfills the requirements of the script: uncertain, passionate, quite a nave young lady who has got a chance to rule a powerful empire. Looking at the actress’s play from this perspective, no reprimand can be made to her, while the competence and aims of the scriptwriter are under a question. The film brought great profits, so the scriptwriter reached his goal despite the silent claims of the historical truth.
The editing group made a great choice of scenes which, most of the time, abruptly change from one into another. Scenes are rich in color, filled up with mysterious shadows and excessive amounts of close-ups which help to pass the sensuality of the film to the audience. Quick-cut scenes are also frequently applied to create the feeling of the imminence of some danger that awaits not only the main heroes but also the entire country.
The cinematography makes the audience watch the whole motion picture feeling a certain pending pressure of what will happen next. Simple knowledge of the history of that epoch is not enough for this melodrama as it is certainly not a historical documentary. Some facts are just fictional details created by Michael Hirst (for example, Elizabeth Tudor was never flirting with any man even Robert Dudley, her close friend, and advisor). If to dig deeper into the history of the era, it is easy to trace one common rule – none of the royal family would ever sleep alone. It means that there would always be at least one person who would share the chamber of the monarch to protect, assist, and check if Their Majesty needs any hand of help (Gillett, n.d.).
Nevertheless, the scenes of Queen Elizabeth I are beautiful. The sound director did a great job helping the audience feel the emotions of the actors. Generally speaking, soundtracks are the greatest part of any movie ever shot in Hollywood. They manage to create a good mood, kill it, scare, petrify, relax, make the audience laugh, give rise to romantic feelings, sexual desire, sadness, and joy. Music can be really referred to as life. It exists in everything people see around. It gives movements to motionless objects and makes silence loud. Soundtracks trigger emotions and feelings that overwhelm the audience in each second of the film. Each individual, animal, plant, or even stone carries music in it; all that is needed is to learn to hear it. Sound directors are great at it, and Queen Elizabeth I only proves this claim. As Stuart Stotts said, “Music has the power to bring people together, give strength, to lift spirits, to provide hope. People everywhere have always turned to music during times of trouble and triumph, despair and celebration. Some particularly powerful songs are sung again and again until they become a permanent part of our history” (Stott, 2010). This is also true about Queen Elizabeth I.
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A costume designer cannot be much criticized either. The spirit of the epoch is well-transmitted through posh fabrics and rich textures of the actors’ clothes. On the other hand, the reproduction of clothes for royalty is not difficult at least because of multiple portraits left from the era. Nevertheless, the apt eye of a competent historian can notice that the directors of the film still faced some mishaps in studying the Elizabethan epoch – too many Edwardian elements can be found in female clothing. The most important thing is to impress the audience – costumes are created to stun people and not just to depict the realia of the time (Gillett, n.d.).
Interestingly, after its release, Queen Elizabeth I was called anti-Catholic and extensively criticized by Catholics. The bone of discord lies in the incorrect depiction of historical events of 1558 when entire England was engulfed by the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The motion picture, however, creates a vivid impression that the only party responsible for the religious instability are Catholics headed by the Pope. Mary Kunz outrageously states that each Catholic is dishonored by the film as he/she is depicted as a dark, uneducated, evil, shallow, and the sly person getting to his goal by all means possible (“Elizabeth” is “Resolutely Anti-Catholic”, 1999).
Despite all criticism poured over Queen Elizabeth I, the movie still gives the audience a great chance to experience Renaissance culture with all its inadequacies and confrontations, to feel both the liberty of the new era and the touch of the Dark Ages that were diminishing everything on their way. Nevertheless, there were some lonely rays of the sun that would shine brightly in the intellectually developing epoch of bright politicians, great artists as well as cultural and political changes that were gradually replacing depression and despair impended by the Middle Ages. All inaccuracies can be forgiven as soon as the person feels pleasure and develops together with the development of the actors and scenes.