Film Review: Elizabeth – The Golden Age


Film: Elizabeth – The Golden Age


Director: Shekhar Kapur

Producer: Studio Canal


Cast: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen


Rating: 2.5/5


Nine years after the spell-binding success of Elizabeth, director Shekhar Kapur returns with its sequel – Elizabeth – The Golden Age, which delves deeper into the life of a Virgin Queen married to her country. Amongst claims of historical inaccuracy and religious controversy, Kapur tries to tell a tale of a powerful woman in history as he sees it.


The story of a legendary nation’s legendary queen is an exploration of the journey of a woman behind the crown and title. It is a story of a monarch’s battle with her loneliness and her commitment to the mighty responsibility she has taken on. The film explores not the monarch who is a woman but a woman who is also a monarch. This provides a personal experience of seeing the central character with masks and without, which is a rich one. We see Elizabeth battling with age and subsequent loss of beauty, struggling with the mantle of a woman’s heart behind the armour she wears for her country and the over-powering question of her relationship with herself and as a result her identity.


The movie, as opposed to its earlier counterpart is limited in its scope for drama despite the glorious background of the Spanish conspiracy and the controversial one of religious bigotry. These events and backdrops are used as mere props to reflect the Queen’s inner angst and do not make a statement on their own. This does a severe discredit to the dramatic quotient of the film, which also divorces the immediate concern of the Queen’s increasing pain from the taking its viewers to its peak. The movie draws towards a lukewarm end which sees a resolution of the inner angst with an existential ‘I am myself’ without completely exploring the depths of despair and vacancy which leads to such a realisation.


The film weaves the various threads in the plot and uses the historic data of relationships and events smartly to avoid all loose ends. The screenplay by Michael Hirst and William Nicholson is brilliantly balanced in its movement. It is pacy without seeming rushed and unhurried without seeming slow. It juxtaposes the turmoil of the inner and the outer world expertly but the technical brilliance does not make up for the slightly vacuous exploration of the central theme.


The film is competently handled especially the central character’s various moods and actions. Director Shekhar Kapur displays a brilliant control over his character and Cate Blanchett portrays the various nuances and range of emotions of her character superbly. She is the soul of the film with her underplayed and exactly dramatised emotions which make the High Monarch Elizabeth so vulnerable, real and as Raleigh puts is, ‘mortal’. Clive Owen as Walter Raleigh, the dashing sea-farer looking for the Queen’s favours looks every inch the part of a man ‘outside of the court’, as the maid Bess puts it. He puts in a convincing performance of a man of the world willing to play the game by its rules to win yet stick by his convictions when the time comes. Geoffery Rush as the royal advisor is the grand presence in the background that inspires security and a competent performance does justice to the same.


Elizabeth-The Golden Age continues the ostentatious style of cinematography from its prequel. Swooping pans, craning overhead shots, uncannily cut conversations maintain intrigue and capture the grandeur of royalty. The textures and colours of costumes and sets are deliberately brought out by effective lighting which help heightening the romance and richness of the age. Costumes are creative and eye-catching marrying authenticity with imagination.


For a period film on royalty the film lacks spectacle. Given the fact that the age and times is a mere backdrop and the spiritual quest of the central character is the focus gives the film a limited leash. The main culprit of the film is the under-played resolution, the ultimate reconciliation of Elizabeth with her mantle and acceptance of her inner conflicts, especially when the final realisation throws open myriad interpretations on the topic.


Despite the various lacunae in thematic presentation the movie is a competent statement. It may not pack a powerful punch of an existential argument but it is a visual treat for some of its imaginative shots. If nothing else for Cate Blanchett, who is the soul of the film, which somewhat lacks a strong one.