William Nicholson, Michael Hirst, Chris Emposimato
Studio Canal, Working titby
dubbing sound technician:
sound mixer technician:
Technicolor Sound Service
Nearly ten years have passed since Cate Blanchett played the role of Elizabeth I of England in Shekhar Kapur's film Elizabeth. Now we find her once more in the role of the Virgin Queen at the height of her power in one of the most crucial moments of her reign. The film narrates the facts which took place between 1587 and 1588; Elizabeth I is a mature woman who has reigned over England for 30 years which thanks to peace and security has become a prosperous and powerful nation. The Golden Age cited in the title has a double significance: both the Queen and England are at the height of their power and splendour. Many sovereigns hope to take over the English throne through marriage or war, but the greatest dangers hide within the nation. Despite being imprisoned, Mary Stuart continues to plot to dethrone Elizabeth, supported by her cousin Phillip II of Spain and by some Catholics still in the kingdom. But the Queen is also a woman and when Walter Raleigh, the fascinating adventurer, comes to Court, Elizabeth discovers what it is to love a man who sees in her not only the incarnation of a nation but also a person. Raleigh soon enters into her grace causing envy and stirring up rumours amongst others who try to make Elizabeth seem an incomplete, superficial woman. Elizabeth the woman would like to give in to her own heart but Elizabeth the queen knows she cannot, so she pushes the adventurer into the arms of Bess, her favourite lady-in-waiting in order to live through her the love which she is denied. Elizabeth hence discovers the pain of jealousy which in its worst moment forces her to distance Bess from Court and to arrest Raleigh both of them guilty of treason for having married without her consent. But the death of Mary Stuart and the war against Spain will make Elizabeth realise her mistake and make her call Raleigh back to guide her fleet against Spain.
Shekhar Kapur directs this second chapter of the life of the Queen of England with a distracted eye regarding history and a very attentive one regarding the private life of the queen. The young queen full of faith and hope whom we left in the first film is now a mature woman who feels the weight of a still divided nation upon her shoulders. Her role asks her to be a man of government and mother of her people, to forget her real nature and forces her to wear a mask which separates her from the world nearing her to the status of divinity.
Scenically majestic, above all in the realisation of the costumes, Elizabeth – The Golden Age is more an introspective rather than historical film. Not merely a coincidence that the set up wisely balances the scenes in public where Cate Blanchett makes full use of her physicality giving us a statuary and impenetrable queen, with shots of the queen in private, in the rooms where only a handful of people have access and where Elizabeth can give vent to all her doubts, her fears and her regrets, shedding the mask of strength and confidence requested of her in public.
The slow descent of the woman Elizabeth into an existentialist crisis and the duplicity which characterizes her life in a dichotomy between public and private are evident by a different use of language by the Queen. All thanks also to a very good translation.
The height of Elizabeth's crisis occurs when she's forced to condemn Mary Stuart to death because to say it in Sir Raleigh's words "Uccidere una regina rende mortali tutte le regine" (to kill a queen renders all queens mortal) and to condemn Mary Stuart means to condemn England to war and this also touches a woman like Elizabeth who is torn between reasons of state and reasons of humanity. But it's precisely in this sacrificial and fatalistic attitude that Mary Stuart reserves towards her own destiny pronounced in that “I forgive you” said to the executioner, which makes us understand how Mary Stuart has accepted to be a chess piece on a political chess board and she identifies her own life with the destiny of her nation. Always careful in weighing her words so as not to offend the court dignitaries, in a moment of extreme crisis, Elizabeth loses control also in public and answers the Spanish consul who urges her to put aside her pride or Spain will declare war: "Posso comandare anche il vento signore, c’è un uragano dentro di me che raderà al suolo la Spagna se solo oserete sfidarmi!". (I can command the wind sir, there's a tempest within me which will throw Spain to the ground if you dare challenge me). An invite to respect her also as a person, perhaps not a very diplomatic answer but certainly one of style. This desperate, bewildered Elizabeth can be seen above all in the scene where Bess is thrown out of Court and Raleigh is imprisoned. The unreasonable fury of the Queen gives vent not only to jealousy but also to the fear and desperation of a woman who feels alone and betrayed also by whom should be near her. The very same Raleigh will point out to her "Questa non è la Regina che io conosco" “This is not the Queen I know”.
But the threat of war will bring Elizabeth to her senses: not only do we assist the pardon of Raleigh but Elizabeth appears almost a second Joan of Arc when, in white armour, hair to the wind and on horseback, she incites her army "Che vengano anche le armate dell’Inferno. Non passeranno!" (May Hell's army try and pass, they will not get through) and observes from a cliff top the defeat of the Invencible Armada.
The Queen has taken over the woman, Elizabeth is the incarnation of England, mother of the English. The final scene in which Bess and Sir Raleigh find themselves once again under her protection is emblematic in this sense. A private audience in which the man recognises his own son and where Elizabeth, holding the baby pronounces the sentence "Io sono la madre del mio popolo": (I am the mother of my people) demonstrates that the Queen has fully re-acquired her majestic role having renounced the status of a normal person.
The choice of the voices is very good, above all Roberta Pellini who in the role of Elizabeth manages to maintain a varied, recitative tone without ever falling into using excessively dramatic ones. Domitilla D’Amico gives us an extraordinary and profound Mary Stuart, majestically interpreted on screen by Samantha Morton, with a recital which well adheres to the distant and detached attitude which characterises the role.
[original review in Italian by Francesca De Rosa]