One of the big Elizabethan-era films of 1998, Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth serves up a brimming goblet of religious tension, political conspiracy, sex, violence, and war. England in 1554 is in financial and religious turmoil ... more »as the ailing Queen "Bloody" Mary attempts to restore Catholicism as the national faith. She has no heir, and her greatest fear--that her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth will assume the throne after her death--is realized. Still, the late Queen Mary has her loyalists. The newly crowned Elizabeth finds herself knee-deep in dethroning schemes while also dodging assassination attempts. Her advisers (including Sir William Cecil, superbly played by Richard Attenborough) beg her to marry any one of her would-be suitors to stabilize England's empire. No matter that she already has a lover. The passionate Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes) is married, however, and shows he cannot stand up to the growing strength of the Queen. With the help of her aide Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush), Elizabeth strikes against her enemies before they get to her first. But her rise ultimately entails rejecting love and marriage to redefine herself as the indisputable Virgin Queen. Cate Blanchett's Oscar-nominated performance as the naive and vibrant princess who becomes the stubborn and knowing queen is both severe and sympathetic. Her ethereal, pale beauty is equal parts fire and ice, her delivery of such lines as "There will be only one mistress here and no master!" expressed with command rather than hysterics. As striking as Blanchett's performance is the film's lavish and dramatic production design. The cold, dark sets paired with the lush costuming show the golden age of England's monarchy emerging from the Middle Ages. Rich velvet brushes over the dank stones while power is achieved at any price, and with such attention to physical detail, Elizabeth fully immerses you into its compelling chronicle of pioneering feminism and revisionist history. --Shannon Gee« less
Elizabeth from princess to icon: One mistress and no master.
Themis-Athena | from somewhere between California and Germany | 02/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Among Great Britain's monarchs, two queens stand out in particular: Elizabeth I. and Queen Victoria. Both came to power at extremely young ages, and at times of political instability which would have set the odds of survival against any new ruler, but particularly so, against a woman. Both beat those odds in ways few people would have foreseen: They not only persevered but ruled for a nearly unparalleled long time, and during their reign achieved to both strengthen England's economy and international stance and give new direction to its society. We have long come to identify their reign as "the Victorian Age" and "the Elizabethan Age," respectively. Yet, while "Victorian England" is an expression often used synonymously with moral conservativism, Elizabeth I. fostered not only the development of science but also the theater and arts; providing fertile ground for the works of Shakespeare, Marlowe and many others. (Influenced by her husband, Queen Victoria supported the exploration of new scientific developments, but the dominant force of her formative years as a ruler was conservative prime minister Lord Melbourne, who once advised her not to read Dickens because his books were "full of unpleasant subjects.") And while Queen Victoria derived strength from her long, stable marriage to German-born Prince Albert, Elizabeth I. resisted the pressure to marry at all and became known as "the Virgin Queen."
Looking back at Elizabeth's reign, we see less a woman than an icon; the symbol of what her rule has come to stand for. Shekhar Kapur's 1998 movie explores, as the director explains in the DVD's "Making of" feature, the making of that icon; the formative processes, influences and personalities surrounding the young princess's ascent to the throne and her first years in power - and of course, at the center of it all, Elizabeth herself, magnificently portrayed by Cate Blanchett (who should have won the Academy Award for her performance). The princess, as this movie sees her, certainly knew her insecurities about her role in life and in English politics, her people's expectations, and the intrigues of her own court. But she was also, as Kapur has her affirm to her protector and spymaster Walsingham, "[her] father's daughter" - the proud, headstrong daughter of Henry VIII., who quickly learned from her mistakes and assumed true leadership early on. Having inherited a country deeply torn in religious conflict, and having barely survived the machinations of the court of her Catholic half sister and predecessor, "Bloody" Mary I., to find her, the "heretic," guilty of treason and execute her, one of Elizabeth's first acts in power was to have parliament pass the Act of Uniformity, reestablishing the Church of England formed by her father. And while she respected her Secretary of State Sir William Cecil, she eventually came to realize that his advice was overly guided by the hope that she marry and produce an heir to secure her kingdom, and she reluctantly retired him into his status as Lord Burghley.
Indeed, there was not one single man who dominated Elizabeth's life but several, and Kapur was able to secure an extraordinary cast to surround then-newcomer Blanchett. Richard Attenborough plays Sir William Cecil with a humility and quiet dignity that few besides him could have brought to the screen. Christopher Eccleston bristles as the powerful, ambitious Catholic Duke of Norfolk, that key player from the inner circle of Mary's court who retained his position after her death and became the one member of Elizabeth's council most dangerous to her reign. Joseph Fiennes reprises his role as a burning-eyed, handsome lover from the almost simultaneously released "Shakespeare in Love" (which, while a splendid movie in its own rights, eclipsed much of the limelight that "Elizabeth" would so richly have deserved), playing the man most closely romantically linked to Elizabeth, "Sweet" Lord Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whose love for her - at least, as this movie would have it - is ultimately his own undoing. "You're still my Elizabeth," the erstwhile princess's lover insists at a ball some time after her coronation. "I am no man's Elizabeth," the queen retorts, and affirms for all the court to hear: "I will have one mistress here, and no master!"
Most impressive of all the queen's men is Geoffrey Rush's portrayal as her protector, secret advisor and supreme spymaster Francis Walsingham, the creator of what much later became Britain's MI-5, whose role Rush approached, inspired by the description Kapur had given him, much like the Hindu god Krishna, as "a very wise man who can kill people ... while smiling," as he explains in the DVD's "Making of" featurette - an ability which his young, unfaithful companion in exile learns to know as much as powerful Marie de Guise (Fanny Ardant), aunt to Elizabeth's would-be suitor Henri d'Anjou and mother of her later rival Mary of Scots; who had refused Henry VIII.'s suit remarking "I may be big in person, but my neck is small," only to find herself terminally surrendering to Walsingham's unmatched cunning.
Key to any great historical movie is the authenticity of its production design, and "Elizabeth" overflows with the rich and luxurious colors of the queen's renaissance court and its balls, gowns and pageants. But there are also the vast, high stone halls of the palace and the royal cathedral, symbolizing the perpetuity of the monarchy reestablished by Elizabeth I. At last, when contemplating a statute of the Virgin Mary, Elizabeth wonders whether, to perpetuate her reign, she must be "made of stone;" and it is again Walsingham who answers: "Aye, Madam, to reign supreme, [because] all men ... must be able to touch the divine here on earth" and as yet, "they have found nothing to replace [Mary]." And so, this movie tells us, the icon we all know was created - and like a nun married to God, a dehumanized Elizabeth reenters her council and holds out her hand to her old Secretary of State: "Observe, Lord Burghley: I am married to England!"
Also recommended: Elizabeth I: Collected Works The Life of Elizabeth I Elizabeth R Elizabeth I The Virgin Queen Elizabeth - The Golden Age (Widescreen Edition) Shakespeare in Love (Miramax Collector's Series) The Wives of Henry VIII"
Beautiful new transfer
Dustin J. Isenberg | Lancaster, PA | 09/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Being an owner of the original dvd release of Elizabeth, I wondered what the difference was compared to the oldy. Suprisingly there is a new digital transfer of the film itself that looks almost as good as high def. (almost) The transfer has livened the colors of the original dvd and is far more impressive to watch. A beautiful film by a great director as I'm sure "Golden Age" will also be. All bonus features are the same as the old version except there is a new extra long trailer going almost 6 minutes of footage from the new movie. If you want my advice, for all of you that want to see Elizabeth in a new pristine cleaned up version, this is the definitive of the latter. It's beautiful to see a dirty jewel sparkle. A great film even with it's inaccuracies because...what film really is accurate? Movies are for entertainment and my oh my does this new version entertain! If anything for all you waiting for the new movie, you can watch the trailer over and over as much as you want!"
A LAVISH AND LUSH MEDIEVAL TAPESTRY...
Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 08/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a magnificent film with a stellar cast giving award calibre performances. Cate Blanchett deservedly won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama. She is truly the heir apparent to Bette Davis and Glenda Jackson, both having portrayed Elizabeth I in memorable performances. Cate Blanchett now joins their ranks with her own incredible performance in that role. The movie begins in 1554, in an England that is bitterly divided on the issue of religion. Ruled by Mary Tudor, Henry the VIII's oldest daughter and a devout catholic, protestants are being burned at the stake as heretics, giving rise to Mary's popular name, "Bloody Mary". Reviled by her Spanish husband and in poor health, Mary is badgered by her advisors to do away with Elizabeth, her considerably younger, bastard half-sister. This Mary will not do, no matter how pressed. Still, Elizabeth lives her life with the sword of Damocles hanging over her head at all times. When Mary dies, Elizabeth takes the throne, no more than a mere slip of a girl wearing the crown of England. Her advisors look to guide her, and she follows their lead, until she determinedly takes control of the reins of power, and follows her own counsel with the help of her most trusted advisor, Francis Walsingham, played to cunning perfection by Geoffrey Rush. With his help, she is able to fend off the ever present threats to her hold on the throne of England, not just from her own courtiers, but from Marie de Guise, Queen of Scotland, deliciously played by Fanny Ardent. In the film one sees the transformation of Elizabeth take place. She goes from being a young woman, really no more than a girl, who is in love with Robert Dudley, the Duke of Leicester, dashingly played by Joseph Fiennes, to the commanding woman history would ultimately come to know as the Virgin Queen. Confronted cruelly with the politics of intrigue and betrayal, she learns that to stay in power and effectively lead her people, she must rule with her head and not with her heart. She succeeded brilliantly, leaving a rich legacy that would be remembered as the Elizabethan era. This film is an absolute masterpiece. While not quite historically accurate, the film is a broad overview of what happened when Elizabeth first took the reins of power. It also attempts to explain why Elizabeth I would be known as the Virgin Queen. This film is a lush and lavishly costumed medieval tapestry that is woven with great care. It is, without a doubt, a magnificent movie that will hold the viewer in its thrall. Bravo!"
Good Drama, Bad History
Constant Librarian | Columbia, MD United States | 01/07/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a lovely movie, Cate Blanchet's performance as the title character is excellent, as is the rest of the cast. The costumes are spectacular. As others have noted, this film is entertainment, not history. The writer(s) mixed fact with pure fancy, and compressed many authentic episodes that occured over 40 or so years into the beginning of the reign. Walsingham did not kill Marie de Guise, nor did he oust Cecil as Elizabeth's primary advisor. Robert Dudley was not involved in any murder plot. I won't bore you with the rest of the laundry list. I think it only fair to point out that in my opinion, despite the inaccuracies, the writer(s) did manage to give a fairly accurate view of some major aspects of Elizabeth I's entire reign. She did use possible marriage as a political tool. And she was damned adept at doing so. Elizabeth did have a more moderate religious policy than either of her two predecessors.The movie is worth watching. And, if seeing it whets your curiosity, read any of the several popular level biographies of
Elizabeth I. Alison Weir's _The Life of Elizabeth I_ is very well written."
Historically Weak but Still Beautiful
Kerri | 07/29/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"'Elizabeth' is a movie along the lines of 'Braveheart'- a fantastic spectacle that plays fast and loose with the historical facts in order to make a good show. Although I found it sorely lacking in the historical accuracy department, the mood, feel, scenery, costuming and lighting come close to atoning for that.Taking place at the inception of Elizabeth I's reign, you're transported back to Elizabethan England. We're privy to some of Elizabeth's most intimate moments, and watch as she grows into an unsure young girl into a competent ruler, who ultimately becomes one of England's greatest monarchs. The acting is superb, save for an over-the-top portrayal of a middle-aged, ill and hysterical Queen "Bloody" Mary. Cate Blanchett eerily resembles the real Elizabeth, and delivers what should have been an Oscar-winning performance. The supporting cast does an admirable job as well, and all should be congratulated for the apparent ease with which they endured being attired in Elizabethan-period clothing!All in all, the scenery is fantastic, the costumes breathtaking, the music haunting, and the acting first-rate. The only thing which I found annoying is the disregard for real history- which, in this instance, is even more compelling than the 'fact based fictional movie'. Some stories need embellishment; that isn't the case with Elizabeth's. Yet despite that, this movie stands on its own and shouldn't be missed."