07 March 2007

The Queen

The Queen, the latest film by Stephen Frears, is a portrayal created to please most parties, from Tony Blair down to Her Majesty Herself (apart from Prince Philip of course). His main focus is the turbulent period immediately after Princess Diana's death when people began to criticise the silence of her and her family. The gist of the film is that the Queen's decision at last to make a public appearance mourning the death of the princess should be construed as an unprecedentedly 'generous' action that Her Majesty had to bestow on an ex-HRH.

I don't know whether much of this is a pure speculation or derived from a reliable source, but I believe that much, if not most, of it is from the vantage point of an outsider trying to understand and make sense of what was going on in the mind of the Queen and her family in such a difficult time. Of course, there's a direct critique of how the establishment has been slow to adjustment and modernisation (as the 'scapegoat' is created in the personage of poor Prince Philip, who seems to sport an extraordinary flat, one-sided perspective in this film -- who knows he's like that in reality?). But there's also a sense of the need to understand the Queen too, as we can see from Blair's rather angry reaction to Alastair Campbell's view that the monarchy is something irrelevant and obsolete in this modern time. The fault is not the Queen's, but apparently the media which dictate how people feel and who the public should sympathise and hate. I couldn't agree more with this, but I also see some irregularities, as Blair himself has hired a team of spindoctors who are always on alert to manipulate and create his image in the way he seems pleased. In fact, Alastair Campbell himself couldn't survive the PR disaster and resigned in 2003.

I guess this is why there lingers a nostalgic tone in the film. When the media have penetrated into deep layers of public sentiments, we cannot help but long for the lost past in which things 'are' what they seem and when our sense of reality is not conjured up by media moguls. Here that sense of 'unintruded' reality is personified in the Queen herself, who doesn't seem to understand how the media work and who longs for the old days when people are not hysterical or open about their grievances but bear these with dignity and stoicism. I don't know whether this actually is the truth, but the film needs to create this disparity in order that the Queen can be seen in a more positive light. The personal row between Princess Diana and the Royal Family is almost completely cut out, as it might lead to a rather negative ending.

In the end, what is the stag? I believe it's meant to be the symbol for the Queen and how she needs to develop up-to-date tactics to survive. The stag is beautiful yet mercilessly slain; the Queen however survives and thrives ... but, for how long? The film in the end shows the Queen and monarchy no longer as an untouchable long-lasting establishment, but as a vulnerable and at times threatened entity. Gone are the days when the Queen can rule with complete peace of mind that everything she orders or thinks will represent her populace; in her place is the rather sinister King who willfully manipulates the populace's heart and mind to serve capitalist ideals -- THE MEDIA.

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