A Masterpiece By Ramiro Cristóbal

in 63rd Venice International Film Festival

by Ramiro Cristobal Muñoz

One day in 1997 the Queen of England, after a long existence in the service of a millennial monarchy finds that her throne is shaky. The tornado that shakes such a granite institution is called Diana, and has, until not long before, been Princess of Wales and wife of the Crown Prince.

This historical anecdote is the starting point of The Queen, made by the veteran film director Stephen Frears and winner at the last Film Festival in Venice (2006) of much more than the prizes so singularly given out by the official panel of judges. The prizes to the splendid actress Helen Mirren, memorable interpreter of the British Sovereign, and to the best scenario, are but a tiny reflection of the unanimity of audience and critics, during the whole competition, on considering this film as the best or, at least, one of the best two in the Mostra, with the only genuine competition being Private Fears in Public Places by Alain Resnais.

Stephen Frears’ first great skill in The Queen is that of slipping, gently and inadvertently, a supposed documentary into a full fiction film. The spectator forgets, almost from the very beginning, that the characters are real people who are still alive and hold similar posts – Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, etc. – and joins the ceremony of artistic fantasy proposed by the film.

The second one is that of having achieved to nourish this cinematographic fiction with a reality, which he never betrays. This is so to such an extent that there never seemed to have been any complaints from those immediately involved in the drama, about the roles they played in the days following the death of the ex-Princess Diana in Paris.

However, the outstanding quality in Frears’ production is, without a doubt, his impartiality and his empathy with each and every one of the characters, particularly with that of the queen. It would have been very easy to use bourgeois, civil and maybe republican sarcasm on that character, emotionally and professionally imprisoned in protocol, inheritor of many generations of men and women who have kept, for centuries, the peculiar activity of being born and living to embody the state and represent the throne. The director reveals the disposition of a genuine artist and the condition of an honest person, by keeping neutral, distant and understanding towards that woman, queen as well, in times of difficulty.

In addition to all this we have perfect rhythm, the inclusion of an intelligent sense of humour hardly pointed out, and, above all, the unforgettable acting with the great Helen Mirren at the head of the cast. All this turns The Queen into a film that can be described as a masterpiece, which cinema will turn, in time, into the best portrayal of a queen of an important and modern country, who lived in the 20th and 21st centuries. We have before us the production of an upright professional with regard to himself and his work, and that has, certainly, a lot to do with the final result of the film.