Yorgos Lanthimos, UK, 2018
Thinking about it today after seeing it last night, this film is much funnier than I experienced it at the time. Maybe the expectations of a period drama, the Oscar-winning/nominated performances (all three actors deserved top billing and top prize), the tragic and serious aspects made me unresponsive to the absurdity, but it really stands out in my memory.
There’s a dance scene, for instance, that seems incredibly out of place in early an 18th century royal court. The men of the court are foppish buffoons. There’s lots of wonderful Anglo-Saxon swearing. Abigail’s (Emma Stone) new husband on his wedding night gets a perfunctory hand job as she sits with her back to him, scheming. Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne is childish and petulant, changing her mind every 5 minutes.
Without much fanfare, this is a feminist film. Our three leads are complex female characters, while the men in the film are largely in the background serving as features of the plot (what a refreshing reversal!). It’s very reminiscent of All About Eve, where the young ambitious upstart usurps Bette Davis’s established star. The dialogue is as snappy too.
And in terms of technical aspects, it looks great. Completely natural lighting from what I could tell (like Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon), some interesting use of different lenses (fish-eye, wide-angles and that), amazing set, amazing costumes, very English setting (woods and mud and grey skies!). Even the design of the end credits fit with the period and look of the film, and – after an Elton John clavichord(!) track – rolled not to music but to the sounds of an English wood. Lovely touch!
I can’t believe I’ve written so much; I almost didn’t go and see it. But I’m so glad I did! Excellent film.