Elizabeth – The Golden Age
Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth, The Golden Age, directed by Shekhar Kapur, puts an interesting take on the virgin Queen this time around. She presents Elizabeth as a woman struggling with the forces around her as she approaches her mid fifties. Although Blanchett played her aptly and with a great deal of depth in both films, playing the Queen in the second film although well done, was a stretch for the thirty eight year old actress. She did bring a great deal of dimension to the character by interpreting Elizabeth as struggling with increasing isolation, loneliness, and fear of the ongoing reality of her failure to provide an heir, avoiding it at every mention by her close adviser, Sir Francis Walsingham, played well by Geoffrey Rush.
Blanchett is mesmerizing, focusing on the Monarch who appears to be more controlled by the calculating actions of those surrounding her rather than the self assured, confident defender of the faith who is herself calculating. She also presents Elizabeth as a more democratic minded leader who begins to question her own courage and ability as Spain’s King Philip II, the former husband of her sister, Queen Mary , plans to invade England and place Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh, does a good job, providing the magnetism which evokes Elizabeth to struggle with her needs and finally begs him for a kiss.
The costume and set designs are dazzling to the point of distracting from the acting as does the incessant score which becomes annoying by competing with the performances. The film would have been better served by more dialogue without the non stop score, and more subdued costumes.
The action was presented using too many close ups without enough wide views to give it the epic feel the film deserved. This was a failure of the director, who tried at various points within the film to transform it into a more surrealistic image of Elizabeth in her golden age. Although the Armada scenes were impressive, the battle was lackluster and more symbolically represented than realistic.
In the film, the political struggle with Spain involves Philips’ manipulation of Mary, Queen of Scots, to become part of the plan to overthrow Elizabeth and replace her with the catholic monarch, while all along planning for Mary’s death by Elizabeth to give him a religious justification for invading England.
The scene which Elizabeth addresses her army, ready to do battle, hair down, dressed in full battle regalia, was more reminiscent of Aragorn at the gates of Moria in The Return of the King as he address the Legions of West. The close-ups first on her then on Philip struggling psychically with each other as the Armada does battle brought to bear images of the Lady Galadriel struggling with the Eye Of Mordor when Frodo willingly offers her the One Ring in Lothlorien.
Watching Blanchett’s performance was reminiscent of Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth R. in the PBS production of masterpiece theatre in 1971 which won multiple Emmy’s and has been considered by historians to have been the most accurate portrayal of the historical period and the court intrigue. The difference in that production is that it had six one-hour episodes to portray the span of the Monarch’s life. It had a better script, and the score was appropriate to the action. Television can often do a better job here than a film because it has more time to flush out additional details that a movie cannot.
Although there was a physical similarity to both actresses as Elizabeth, Jackson’s performance was more believable because the script was better. Here, Blanchett does a good job, but the script didn’t allow more, while her acting was weighed down by that incessant score. Never-the-less, it’s always a treat to see Cate Blanchett, an actress of note in any performance.
For complete Cast and Crew information about the film, please visit the following entry at the Internet Movie Database.