Sunday, December 16, 2007
ELIZABETH:THE GOLDEN AGE, sequel to the more strictly situational ELIZABETH (1998), functions best as a period-piece via an impressionistic mood-piece, with the certain air of speculation about its history. Its cinematography bows rather elegantly and severely to nature of retrospection; a peering through the veil of history, as it were. In many instances we observe scenes obscured by textured glass, from a harsh angle, swathed in saturated colors, or through a hazy reflection in polished metal. The entire film has a kind of poetic severity; virtuosic score, stunning compositions and design. Ultimately though, this does put a rather theatrical and abstract wall between the viewer and the film, which might have sustained better by a more subtle existential language, considering its focus on the queen's taxing solitude, and indeed its acuteness of character abroad. We are swept up in pageantry and spectacle, but not compelled by authenticity or humanity per se, even though Blanchette’s performance is beguiling in its dance between vulnerability and command. The only real mar against the film are those many moments in which characters wax their prose-like introspections, moments that undermine their own depth and weigh as a self-conscious. But in the end I wonder, what else did people have to do back then but talk of their experience? For that matter, one might as well draw their words with particular zeal. It merely buoys the poetics of the rest of the films verbous construction.
Historical inaccuracy is certainly rampant in Kapur’s film, but I concede to it for I’ve never seen a historical drama that is built entirely on incontrovertible unmodified fact, just as adaptation from reputed fiction is never translated pure. I forgive it because I expect it. I understand that materials and words and facts will be manipulated for a filmmaker’s own “truth-telling.” THE GOLDEN AGE shuffles a number of milemarkers in the later life of the queen, and mixes them with some speculative if not fictional elements, but to no significant detriment of the film itself. The reason I say this is because, like a good period film, its very nature and display made me question its bearings and authenticity. It inspired me to actively research the period on my own terms. I know exactly what was changed, added, trimmed, cropped, highlighted and crammed in terms of actual fact, and all the better for myself and the film. This is a sentiment shared by Blanchette, who is weary of a growing uneducated populace complacent with illusion-as-truth.
Shekar Kapur (the director) explains that his film operates under the maxim of “all history is but an interpretation.” His paramount concern is to make ELIZABETH resonate, through mood and consequence of action, the crucial attitude of religious tolerance in a world that has begotten so many vehemently singular religions convinced of their authority. This is wholly relevant to our own world stage.