Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

The Queen

The Queen got its network premiere last night.

It's a good movie, but I don't believe in it.  I don't think our reigning monarch is anything like the sensitive, self-aware and emotionally literate character Helen Mirren plays. All that side of things is a fantasy- an exploration of the proposition, "what if the Queen were one of us?" Helen's Queen is a changeling- a person with heart who suddenly finds herself at the centre of a heartless institution and is bewildered by the affectlessness of the people around her.  She is a normal person pretending to be abnormal.  In real life the Queen is the one who sets the tone in that family.  The chill emanates from her.

Mirren has a mobile face; it betrays imagination, kindness, a connection to the inner child. The actual Queen Elizabeth II has a face that has been moulded into petulance by sixty years of privilege, unaccountability and a soul-deadening submission to duty. It's unique. You only get a face like that by leading a life like that. You can't fake physiognomy. 

In order for the Queen to shine- which in real life she doesn't- all the other characters have had their wattage reduced. The real Blair is far more charismatic . The real Prince Philip is the brains of the outfit and nothing like the upper-crust thicko we see here. As for Charles- well, the real Charles is a fascinating character- riven with contradictions, ruined by flattery- a well-meaning, emotionally clumsy eccentric who believes himself to be far more intelligent and imaginative than he actually is. Here he becomes the villain of the piece- paranoid, sneaky, disloyal. 

The movie may not be history but it's not untrue.  The details are wrong but the picture is right. 1997 was the year of the revolution that never was.  That's what the movie captures.  Britain might have changed; Britain didn't change. Blair came in promising a new dawn and was almost immediately seduced by the glamour of things as they are. The Queen conquered him just as, a few years later, he was conquered by an American president. Ten years on and we're living in the same world. The public is enthralled by celebrity, New Labour has become the new establishment, Prince Charles sulks in the wings, and the Queen- who has never been more popular- spends her holidays at Balmoral, stalking deer.


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