Thursday, January 22, 2009

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

This movie came out in  2007 and although I didn’t catch it on the big screen, I finally rented it several months ago.  Since hubby & I recently watched David Starkey’s History Channel documentary on Queen Elizabeth, I’m thinking of this lady who so captures my imagination. 

Elizabeth I is one of my heroes, one of those people from history that I am continually intrigued with.  That may sound strange coming from an Orthodox Christian who might easily identify with the Catholic struggle under this Protestant Queen, and yet it is her restraint, her firm resolve to avert the bloodbath that her half-sister Mary had ordained, that fosters my admiration.

Elizabeth:  The Golden Age, starring Cate Blanchett, is the sequel to the 1998 film, Elizabeth, which tells the story, albeit loosely, of the beginning of her reign in 1559.  The Golden Age picks up in the middle of her 45 year reign as the tensions with Roman Catholic Spain were at an all-time high and war was on the horizon.    

I thought the Golden Age was an artistic achievement with rich costumes, authentic sets and ethereal scenes that would make for excellent oils.  In this way, The Golden Age directed by Shekhar Kapur, is superior to its prequel.   And Cate Blanchett simply IS Elizabeth I.  I cannot think of anyone more suitable for the role.    However, that’s about the extent of my praise.

I kept waiting to be awed by this film, by explosive and intelligent speeches, by scenes created to flesh out Elizabeth’s mastery of multiple languages and political finese, but they simply didn’t materialize.   I was left pondering several scenes, wondering if Hollywood had gone too far in manipulating the truth in order to dazzle. Ugh.  The truth of her life is much more dazzling than the scene created of an (erroneous) youthful Elizabeth riding out on a great steed to deliver a powerful speech to encourage her troops to defeat the Spanish Armada.

The personal anguish that Elizabeth must have battled, the realities of being a woman and also a Queen, forever in danger of assassination attempts and plots to overthrow her, is played out well in the film, even if artistic license is taken here as well. 

This personal battle is also why she is a woman I most admire.  Elizabeth made difficult choices and always in the interest of her country, in securing England’s place in the world, in protecting her from the Inquisition.  She ruled during the fire of the Protestant Reformation and showed wisdom when she said, “I have no desire to make windows into mens souls”  as she tolerated Catholicism in her Protestant land.  Although she removed icons as idolatrous, I tend to view her as carrying out her father's desires and standing firm against a corrupt papacy.

All in all, I’d give Elizabeth: The Golden Age a C+ because it’s a beautiful recreation of one of my favorite periods in history but it’s too much symbolism over substance to warrant a hearty applause.

If you’re a fan of Queen Elizabeth I, I’d recommend the History Channel’s  4 part documentary by David Starkey; we found this series at our local library.


E.B. said...

I was glad to read your review, Amy, this movie is offered among our "free" offerings this month with our cable company. Having enjoyed the previous Elizabeth, I was curious about this one.

amy said...

I would watch it again, especially if it was available for free =-) I just wish they had been more accurate with the script and given Cate Blanchett more opportunities to shine. There's enough written about Elizabeth's speeches that this should not have been a problem!

amy said...

P.S...if you see it, I'd love to know your thoughts.

Barbara Martin said...

Amy, you might consider purchasing the DVD when it is available. Writers and producers of movies on famous persons often put their viewpoint forward as opposed to what history states. Cate Blanchett is a powerful actress with the ability to characterise a strong woman.

Anonymous said...

Alrighty, I'm intrigued. I'm putting it on the Netflix queue. Thanks for the review!


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