Blog Directory CineVerse: God save the Queen (from power-hungry lackeys)

God save the Queen (from power-hungry lackeys)

Thursday, January 30, 2020

If you're looking for a genuinely warts-and-all cinematic portrayal of British royalty without an overreliance on grandiose language, prim decorum, and predictable gender roles and sexual politics, look no further than Yorgos Lanthimos' "The Favourite." Our CineVerse crew took a walk through this castle of nonconformity last night. Here are our takeaways:

How did “The Favourite” defy your assumptions and catch you off guard, and what stood out as impressive or unconventional to you?

  • It’s rare to have a costume period drama based on a monarchy in which three strong women are the dominant characters. There are males in this narrative, but they take a backseat to the power playing among the females who command this tale.
  • It’s also highly unconventional to depict an English queen with eccentric sexual proclivities. While any historians insist that the relationship between Anne and Sarah was platonic, not physical, this “what if” story creates intrigue and deviates from many previous portrayals of British royalty.
  • There’s a lot more aberrant sexuality, profanity, vomiting, and female empowerment depicted here than you’d possibly expect for a film about a British monarch from the 18th Century.
  • There’s an uninteresting political subplot percolating in the background regarding the Whigs vs. the Tories that almost seems inserted merely to draw attention to how much more interesting the main plot between the three female leads is.
  • This director, Yorgos Lanthimos, is a distinctive filmmaker who has a reputation for presenting strange narratives and making curious directorial choices. Here, for example, he employs extreme wide-angle lenses, a fisheye lens, natural light and candlelight instead of artificial illumination, whip pans, an oddly blue birthday cake, women who wear no makeup contrasted with men who wear excessive makeup and grandiose wigs, and monochromatic female costumes worn by Queen Anne’s court that make the characters almost resemble chess pieces.

Themes examined in this film

  • The same compulsions and motivations that drive men apply to females: power, lust, greed, sex, revenge, and cruelty.
  • The female of the species is capable of being more powerful and dangerous than the male. In this story, we see how women rule the roost, call the shots, and command attention and power over male characters, refreshingly.
  • The corruptive and depraving nature of power.
  • The love triangle: This time between three romantically linked women.
  • The power triangle. We see how, at different points in the film, one of these three women wields power or dominance over another. But eventually, that power dynamic shifts, and the more submissive one exerts control. Consider how Sarah appears to have dominance and influence, respectively, over both Abigail and Anne earlier in the film; but by story’s end, the tables have turned. Recall, too, how we see Abigail stepping cruelly on a helpless rabbit—just because she can—and then the Queen metaphorically steps on Abigail by summoning her to kneel down and rub her ailing leg. We see the Queen push down on Abigail’s head, making the girl seem quite like a helpless rabbit herself.
  • The drawbacks of dominion: Anne appears lonely, depressed, alienated and isolated, and devoid of any family, despite being the most powerful and revered person in England. We know that she’s lost 17 children. And the montage imagery we see in the film’s final scene of increasing quantities of rabbits (suggesting their unbridled capacity to breed) seems to mock Anne’s childless state—or at least serve as an ironic visual statement on how utterly alone she truly is.

Similar movies “The Favourite” makes us think of

  • Dangerous Liaisons
  • Cries and Whispers
  • Amadeus
  • Peterloo
  • Marie Antoinette
  • Love & Friendship
  • All About Eve

Other films directed by Yorgos Lanthimos 

  • Dogtooth
  • The Lobster
  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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