Friday, October 24, 2014

Don't Forget Your Manners, Lizzy

In Stephen Frears' The Queen we get a glimpse into the world of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her family, and Parliament; and how they cope when tragedy strikes. Grace and tradition take a big role throughout the film, contrasting with the world and Her country outside of the Palace. As the story progresses, the old fashioned elegance of the Family opens up and modern behavior spills in. You can see the character arc of the Queen through her blocking alone.

The film begins with the infamous "Meeting the Queen" scene, where newly elected young Prime Minister Tony Blaire meets Elizabeth for the first time. As the palace guard warns him before he opens the grand double doors that leads into Her office, "never turn your back to her and always keep eye contact." The first meeting is very sharp and awkward, she doesn't like him and he's nervous as a sheep before slaughter. It's clear that it's going to be a bumpy ride. 

Elizabeth and her family like to spend time together whether they're watching TV together or hunting in the beautiful English country side. No matter how she acts during the work hors, the Queen does what she wants on her own time, which includes driving herself in an off-road Land Rover. There always will be a cordial way the Royal Family interacts with one another, but when they are alone the pressure is off, now it's just their default.

As Diana's death impacts the country and the people decide to rebel against the Family, Elizabeth tries her hardest to stay empowered. She keeps her head up high and her back straight, but in her own quarters and privacy it is noticeable that her posture is less tense and attitude is more relaxed. This is due to Hellen Mirren's impeccable performance and Stephen Frears' subtly powerful directing and camera work. Her overall body language becomes more tense and her patience runs out quickly as the events unfold throughout the week, which compliments the story and circumstances. 
Elizabeth and the Royal Family are coming into an age where they are not just seen as royalty, rather real human beings with privilege thanks to the newspapers and gossip newscasters; they can't simply go to galas and wave for the crowds, they have to show real humanity. This is daunting on Elizabeth, who was been ruling for fifty years, she doesn't know how to handle it and certainly won't take any advice from Mr. Blaire. Her subconscious pride and traditionalism gets in the way of her job and how she appears to the British people, and this all shows through her body language and performance. Blocking is very important in this film and especially focused around the Queen. Different people stand at different lengths around her, and different people have certain rules they must follow when around her. This all fades into odd gray zones during this tragedy filled week. One must remember what is important in time of sadness, and never turning away from Her Majesty is low on the priority list.

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