One day while surfing channels, I stumbled upon The Queen. As I paused, I watched a great drama unfold in front of my eyes. The story revolves around the Queen Elizabeth II caught up in a unique crisis situation after Lady Diana‘s death, and how she plays her part. Two things got me – the presentation of the plot, and certainly the exceptional performance by Helen Mirren, who played the Queen Elizabeth II.
Diana’s divorce in 1996 had dissociated her from the Royal Household, which means that, technically, the rights for her funeral would be the Spencers prerogative, and that it would be a private funeral. However, that was not something the world in general discerned, giving birth to a series of dilemmas. In wake of the prevailing circumstances, the Queen gave her consent for a public funeral ceremony which that included royal pageantry, befitting Diana’s glory and grandeur. The film brought to light the behind-the-scenes for incidents like “half-mast flag” on the flagpole of the Buckingham Palace : as a tradition the Royal flag is flown only when the Queen is in residence. The Queen was then at the family’s summer home – the Balmoral Castle in Scotland – privately mourning and protecting Diana’s grieving sons. Besides, there has been no tradition of a “half mast” flag as it is the Sovereign‘s flag and there is never a dead Sovereign (the new monarch immediately succeeds his or her predecessor). However, this evoked angry public reaction like “Where is our Queen? Where is her Flag?“. It is then that the Union flag was flown half mast that appeased the crowds. Similar situations like “Changing of the Guard‘ was altered – the Guard was asked to march from a different gate – as there were over a million flowers left by mourners outside the Buckingham Palace . The final ‘masterstroke’ as it is called by one and all, is the Queens public mourning and address. I loved this scene where Tony Blair‘s wife condemns the Queen’s while watching her televised address to the nation, and Blair, admiring the Queen for how she has dealt with the whole episode, tells his wife that what the Queen was is doing is extra-ordinary. This address had conciliated one and all after the prolonged misunderstood silence from the royalty. Some people do not have the luxury to keep their grief private even if they want to, like most of us rightfully do, I thought to myself. What a sad irony!
Interwoven well within the story are incidents that show the real person behind the title that Elizabeth is: her concern for her grandsons to protect them from the mad media, her love for the red deer stag in their estate and the grief she undergoes to see it killed. And how skillfully she hides her vulnerability and pain from showing itself speaks for the real person behind the perceived tough exterior of the supreme royalty! It’s touching.
Considering most of the world is pro-Diana, it certainly must have been a delicate and difficult subject for a film to convey the message to such an audience. The film deftly manages to do so. It does not paint Diana in a negative picture really; all it does is exposes the audiences to the pressure that the Queen undergoes on several levels from her position and her perspective. And what comes to fore is “the other side” not known or shown hitherto. This picture appears to be hugely different from the one that is commonly and conveniently perceived by us based on what we read and see via profit-making corporations known to us “media”.
The lions share of the success of the film is the actor who played Queen Elizabeth, Helen Mirren. I find no words that would do justice to her performance and still not sound a cliché. Meryl Streep herself is known to call her an ‘acting God’ and that is certainly for a reason. What a powerful and unprecedented performance, I dare say! I have never seen anything that perfect and impeccable ever before! What delicate subtleties in her acting and what poise! Sheer brilliance! The movie undoubtedly belongs to Mirren… I salute The Queen, the real and certainly the reel!