Sunday, June 22, 2008


Ok, I may be in a rut but it's a damn entertaining one. I picked up the 1998 Cate Blanchett film Elizabeth. Since I just finished season one of The Tudors I was in the mood for the next generation. Henry VIII went to drastic measures to have a male heir but it was both of his surviving daughters who ended up ruling. His one son with Jane Seymour, Edward VI, died at fifteen, turning the throne over to Lady Jane Grey, who ruled for only nine days. The kingdom then went to Mary, Henry's daughter with Catherine of Aragon. Under her reign, the persecution of Protestants earned her the title "Bloody Mary". There is disagreement as to the number of people put to death during Mary's five-years in power; however, several notable clerics were executed including one Thomas Cranmer. Mary died leaving no children, which left the throne to her half-sister Elizabeth. I love the irony that Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded for not delivering a son, gets 'revenge' when her daughter, Elizabeth, went on to reign for forty five years; the longest of the Tudors.

Cate Blanchett is arguably the greatest actress of her generation and turns in a splendid performance of a woman standing tall as religious conflicts rage around her and keeping many scheming advisers at bay. She learned her political savvy well from her mother's mistakes. Elizabeth's transformation from a princess to a queen is skillfully assisted by the utterly loyal Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush is exceptional as usual), who ruthlessly weeds out any opposition to his queen, and constantly reminds her of her duties when she must make unpleasant decisions. Interestingly, Elizabeth decides that she can have more political power by remaining unmarried, we find her sobbing in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary and she inherits the appellation The Virgin Queen.

My gripe with Hollywood continues with their attempt to condense (rewrite is a more appropriate term) history. The events of this movie - Elizabeth is locked up in the Tower, nearly married into an alliance with France, survived Norfolk's rebellion, and eventually transformed into The Virgin Queen persona - all actually took place over a period of roughly 30 years. What happened to aging actors? Condensing history is bad enough but the biggest crime is that they portray Robert Dudley (played by Joseph Fiennes) as betraying Elizabeth when in fact he remained a loyal subject until his death. It would be the equivalent of Bobby Kennedy turning on JFK or Karl Rove pulling a knife on W. I guess after 500 years nobody cares but we should.

I enjoyed the movie and wanted more and of course there is. Elizabeth: The Golden Age was released in 2007... and my English history lessons via Hollywood continue.

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