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Monday, March 24, 2008:
"Elizabeth I" (1998) - movie review

This is the England of 1554, but the veneer of traditional English composure and dignity has been stripped away. The British populace is in turmoil. Fearing a challenge to her throne, Queen Mary I imprisons her half-sister, Princess Elizabeth Tudor (The daughter of King Henry VII and Anne Boleyn), in the Tower of London. But, in 1558, when "Bloody Mary" dies, Elizabeth is swept onto the throne and, at the age of 25, is crowned Queen of England. In order to survive, let alone to rule, Elizabeth must suss out hidden agendas: the Court is rife with intrigue; military strategists are risking the lives of young Englishmen; religious leaders at home and abroad place no faith in her; and the man she loves might not be worthy of her trust. The male-dominated ruling class would appear to have the advantage, but intelligent Elizabeth will deploy whatever means necessary to keep, or take what's rightfully hers.

I rented this movie because I'd not seen it before, and I was rather interested in seeing "Elizabeth: The Golden Age", which recently came out in theatres. I had no idea the first movie was released 10 years ago, but I do remember Cate Blanchett receiving an Oscar nomination for her performance (Gwyneth Paltrow won for "Shakespeare In Love"). Since I seem to have an aversion to award-winning movies, I steered clear of "Elizabeth".

Now that I'm older, hopefully wiser, I have a better appreciation for films that are well done, and so was the case, I enjoyed it very much. Of course a lot of it was speculation, for instance, as to whether Queen Elizabeth had any type of physical relationship with Sir Robert Dudley (played by Joseph Fiennes, who was in "Shakespeare In Love" in the same year).
Princess Elizabeth was to have been condemned to death by her sister Mary, the current queen, who was dying. Because Mary was a Catholic and Elizabeth was not, many believed Elizabeth was a heretic and should die for it. She was arrested, brought to the Tower of London, and brought before her sister. Needless to say, she didn't die. She was made Queen.
One of her first decisions, with the guidance of her closest council, involved sending soldiers to Scotland, against Mary of Guise, a more seasoned warrior, and ended in defeat, an act that led Elizabeth to trust her own judgment and not be prodded into war. She began making more of her own decisions while still seeking council, but trusting her own judgment.
While acting fearless, her life was very much in danger at times, and in at least two instances, escaped with very close calls, one being a rather nasty poisoned dress episode where someone else ended up dying. Not a way to go.
I liked how strong Elizabeth was. She looked a bit plain, but she was a force to be reckoned with once she really let herself rule. She could be charming, flirtatious, bold, but there was also a backbone of steel inside that woman. To defy so many men, and to not marry, well, that was something. She became the virgin Queen, married to England, and ruled for 45 years. Quite an accomplishment. And not just for a woman.

What woman/women of history do you admire?

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  1. Glad that you got a chance to see this one. I saw it in an art house theatre back when it came out and was really taken with it. I thought the director did a fabulous job with the overall look and feel of the piece and in conveying that quasi-paranoid, very uncertain vibe that surrounded the court. And Cate Blanchett is fantastic.

    Unfortunately, for my money the second film in no way measures up to the first. and that's a real shame because Elizabeth I is one of my favorite films of the last decade. :(

  2. I adore this movie. It's a tour de force for Cate Blanchett. Her evolution in the film from terrified girl to reigning monarch is stupendous.

    Although it's sorta loosey-goosey with the history, it's still a favorite for me.

    And Joe Fienne's bedroom eyes can never be understated!

  3. Wait till you see the sequel! Cate is an amazing actress and is Queen ELizabeth IMO.
    We redheads rule :)

  4. Argh--I want to see this!! The only way I can get DH to watch costume drama is by telling him there are naked women in it ;)

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