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Elizabeth – The Golden Age – Review Essay

The movie “Elizabeth – The Golden Age” (2007) is a remake, or better said, a sequel to the movie “Elizabeth” (1998). Both of the films feature Cate Blanchett in the role of Elizabeth I, Queen of England. The story begins in 1585 and is dominated by the intention of King Phillip the II nd of Catholic Spain, a very powerful empire at the time, to defeat and dominate England, ruled by a protestant Queen, Elizabeth. He is helped by Queen Mary of Scotland, who secretly plans to assassinate her cousin in order to take over the throne. Lord Francis Walshingham, who is devoted to “the virgin Queen”, insists that she get married, for the sake of the country and the people. Walter Raleigh, the handsome corsair, is accepted at the Court and dubbed Sir. He will become captain of the Queen’s personal guard. The storyline is quite difficult to follow, the locations the action takes place in are switched in a rapid pace, one moment we see opulent celebrations, the next, we witness arrests and torture.

At one point in the movie, an astrologist, or better said, a prophet foresees the fall of an empire, without being able to say which one. There are numerous love intrigues. Maid of honor Bess falls in love with Walter Raleigh, in parallel with the Queen’s sympathy, even love, for the younger corsair, culminating with the secret marriage of the two, who will be exiled by the Queen. The loyal Lord Francis unmasks the tentative to assassinate the Queen, thus saving her from the Jesuit traitors. The movie pictures a powerful Queen, who is not even afraid of death. Mary Stuart is accused of treason, condemned and decapitated. These circumstances are used by Phillip the II nd to declare war. What follows is an avalanche of scenes cast in both light and darkness, fabulous decorations, flames, marching fleets and music in harmony with a tense atmosphere. One of the most interesting scenes is that of the kiss: the Queen asks Walter to kiss her, on the background of a burning flame, which seems to consume their very souls.

The film pictures a restless and authoritarian Queen whose rule represents the apogee of English absolutism. The Queen dressed in armour, riding a white horse, in the middle of the people she loved, follows the expression “to live or to die”. Scenes on dry land or on the sea, canons, flames, Catholic churches, burning ships, the storm, the powerful music, the stormy sea all precede Phillip’s defeat. Even his daughter and the Catholic priests dressed in red turn their backs on him. Queen Elizabeth dedicated her life to her people. A virgin, with no husband or children, she said “I am myself”. The movie stands out through the decorations, the costumes (Oscar) and the makeup.

The scenography was at the height of the movie’s heroine. The mature sovereign is superbly played by Cate Blanchett, who manages to recreate the image of the true Queen of England, who blended love with the intrigues of the Court, finally blessing her trusted Lord Francis on his deathbed, as well as the child of Bess and Walter, for whom she felt a powerful but secret love. The ending is explicative for the personality of the Virgin Queen – the mother of the entire English people.

Another interesting role is that played by Clive Owen (the corsair) who is torn between his passionate love for Bess and his respect for the Queen. The movie excels in recreating the epoch atmosphere, with the aid of sumptuous costumes, fabulous decorations, the presentation of the Catholic churches and the Spanish Inquisition. Despite the fact that it does not fully respect historical dates (heroes, ages, moments), the film succeeds in bringing to life the real Elizabethan England.


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