09 May 2009

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a sequel. Though it may not be always historically accurate, it is a good film with beautiful images and strong characterisation. The film sets out to portray how the Virgin Queen maintained her power through the turbulent times later in her reign, especially during her political fight with the Spanish and Mary, Queen of Scots.

What I like about the film is the extent to which the director, Shekhar Kapur, has invested in the image of Queen Elizabeth as the prototype of a Renaissance figure who finds the religion redundant and somehow contradicts with human emotion and creativity. Thus, we see the contrast of colour: while black is associated with the Spanish and the Roman Catholics, resplendent white is linked with Elizabeth herself and her reign. From the perspective of the film, nature also aligns itself with the Queen, as its storm wreaks havoc on the Spanish Armada. What is underlined, therefore, is how much religion, especially Roman Catholicism, is portrayed as oppressive and against nature. This interpretation is shrewdly highlighted, especially in the scene when Elizabeth watches the tempestuous sea. However, this should not blind us to the fact that in reality during her reign the Roman Catholics were just as vehemently persecuted.

However, one wonders whether Elizabeth herself, with nature on her side, can prosper. We see how much she represses her carnal desire and channels that to her political creativity. We see how much she feels for her cousin, Mary the Queen of Scots, who is about to be beheaded thanks to her order. In other words, she is also victimised by nature, as she cannot control her desire and longing. Nonetheless, according to the film, she is more successful than the Spanish, as she allows herself to succumb to these human emotions, not negating them altogether and being transformed into a lifeless lumb of blackness like King Philip II (as the film portrays him to be).

True to its glorifying style, the film chooses to end with the death of Sir Francis Walsingham when the Elizabethan reign is at its highest, with its colonies around the world and no more equal political enemies. However, I can't help but wonder if the film had chosen to follow her path till the moment she actually dies, we may perhaps see and understand more of this Renaissance figure, especially how more human and frail she can become.

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