Monday, January 16, 2012

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I
There is a never-ending speculation and wonder behind the life of England's most famous monarch, Queen Elizabeth I. Shrouded in mystery and intrigue, she is a portion of history that changed the world forever. 

Her reign made England the world power for centuries. Her curiosity in the new world across the ocean led to the colonization of America (and being born and raised in Virgina, I'm proud to say that).

Q. Elizabeth I is has many well known qualities for which the world has remembered her by. From her red hair and stone white face, to her refusal to marry and remain a virgin. Her elaborate gowns and love of theater, and her unwavering trust in the sovereignty of God. 

All of these add up to an incredible woman that by her death was still a woman, but one, who during her reign, the world learned not to mess with. Men, woman, kings, queens, princes, and popes.

~ ~ ~

Jordi Molla as King Philip II of Spain
In my review of the preceding movie Elizabeth I had been somewhat disappointed by the inaccuracy and the all around general dark depressing gloominess of the film. So one can assume that I put in the sequel with caution. 

The movie starts several years later, where the first one left off. Elizabeth is in the highlight of her reign. She's happy, lively, and full of ideas to improve England. 

Elizabeth has two major adversaries that she has to deal with.

The first is her former brother-in-law, King Philip II of Spain who is telling his young daughter, Princess Isabella,  the evils of the 'bastard queen of England.' Little Izzy doesn't seem to care and prefers cuddling her doll that looks quite a lot like that hated queen.

The second is the hardened criminal, Mary Stuart or Mary, Queen of Scots who is doing time under house arrest. Her crimes? Being in line to the throne of England and being a Catholic. Both, in the minds of the English people are grounds for death.

Not to Elizabeth though. She states very clearly that she punishes people for their deeds, not for their religion. In spite of what she is trying to bring together, there is still tension between the Catholics and Protestants.

~ ~ ~

Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh
Now, what's a royal movie without a love story?

Another note of inaccuracy is the lack of Elizabeth's dear Robert Dudley, who in the first film was a convict of a heinous crime and therefore Elizabeth banished him from her sight.

Completely and totally wrong. Elizabeth and Robert were close friends till Robert's death.

So, with Robby out of the portrait, Hollywood had to dig up some other dead historical figure and they used Sir Walter Raleigh, played wonderfully by Clive Owen. Elizabeth is intrigued by the dashing rogue, Raleigh and envies him and his stories of the new world colony of Virginia, which he named after her.

Abby Cornish as Elizabeth "Bess" Throckmorton
Yet, there ends up being another lady vying for Raleigh's wandering heart. Elizabeth's devoted and favorite lady-in-waiting Elizabeth (Bess) Throckmorton.

One might immediately think pretty little Bess to be conniving and envious of the Queen when it comes to loving the same man, but she's not. She is kind, generous, and loyal to the end. There is accuracy of Walter and Bess' relationship. 

Walter truly did love her. Bess becomes pregnant with his child and they secretly marry...without the Queen's permission. When Elizabeth finds out, she furious and sends Raleigh to the tower and dismisses Bess.

More on that later.

Samantha Morton as Mary, Queen of Scots
 In the midst of this wild love triangle, Elizabeth is still in a struggling battle over what to do with her imprisoned cousin, Mary Stuart. Her counselors simply want to kill her and get it done with, but Elizabeth (in her feminine mind) will not end someones life unless a crime has been committed.

So when a failed assassination attempt on Elizabeth's own life sends all of England into an uproar, immediately the guilty finger is pointed at Mary who claims to be innocent. Elizabeth believes her to be innocent as well, but her counselors do not. Eventually Elizabeth signs Mary's death warrant in only to protect 'her England' from another crime. 

As soon as Mary is proclaimed dead, Elizabeth falls into complete guilt and begs for God's forgiveness. 

God might be forgiving, but Philip of Spain is not and sees Mary's innocent death as a catalyst to wage war on England. So begins an incredible and epic sea battle between England and Spain. Anyone who knows their history knows that Sir Francis Drake led England's fleet to victory (although his role in the movie is seriously downplayed) and ushered England into its golden age as the leading world power. 

Spain finally defeated and England at peace, Elizabeth is now free to simply be queen. The end of the movie sees Elizabeth at the Raleigh's home after Bess has given birth to their son. Although inaccurate (Elizabeth didn't know of the secret marriage until the baby was born), it was a very moving and beautiful ending. 

~ ~ ~

Elizabeth: Woman, Warrior, Queen
 The one aspect that surprised me the most was the lighting. Whether this was done on purpose or not, I don't know, but the constant attention to the beauty of natural sunlight and warmth is spread throughout the film. Which is a complete tearaway from the first movie where everything was dark and cold.

In my opinion, I found The Golden Age to be beautifully done and much more positive than it's predecessor film. In spite of its inaccuracies (find them here under Dramatic License) it is a very good watch. The beauty of the cinematography and once again, the stunning costumes, sets, and designs are awe inspiring.

"My loving people, we have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourself to armed multitudes for fear of treachery; but I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people ... I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any Prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm."
 ~ Queen Elizabeth I

1 comment:

  1. Actually, the movie got the bit about Francis Drake and the armada right - Drake was only second in command of the English fleet.

    On the other hand, along with many other inaccuracies (some of which you've mentioned), I found the costumes to be awful - the film gave us a sort of Post-Punk knock-off of Elizabethan fashion. Real Elizabethans wouldn't be seen dead in half the clothes the movie's actors were wearing - especially the men, who went around dressed in what looked like heavy curtain or upholstery fabrics rather than the delicate silks and velvets that were the true fashion of the time.


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