Barely 10 years since Shekhar Kapur first directed ‘Elizabeth’ its sequel follows as ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’.
The story unfolds three decades after Elizabeth had ascended the throne. With Philip II of Spain looking to invade England and turn it into a Catholic stronghold there is the feel of impending danger in almost every still. Meanwhile another problem nags the queen: the lack of a suitable heir. Her courtiers and her own conscience trouble her over this matter in many instances.
Amid this controversy enter the dashing Sir Walter Raleigh. Brimming with wit and self-confidence, the handsome knight outshines all of Elizabeth’s suitors and becomes the favourite at court. The queen has no eyes for anyone else and even the mere sight of him is enough for her to flush with joy. She is entranced by his language and vision of the New World.
Unfortunately for Elizabeth she is well past her physical prime while her lady-in-waiting, the young and lustrous Bess Throckmorton, is a much more attractive candidate for Sir Walter’s affection. That is exactly what follows as Bess is impregnated by the youth.
Interestingly though the lovers earn the queen’s wrath on discovery, we realize that they too have been almost puppets in her hands. The camera focuses on Elizabeth’s eyes many times, capturing the isolation and solitude of a lonely soul trying to hang onto sanity through a few close to her heart. Though old, she still yearns to be the desired one and had surrounded herself with the loveliest ladies in court. She pines for affection of her male counterparts.
One of the drawbacks of ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ is that it is crowded with too many historical characters. The director together with his script writers had tried to glorify the film by introducing many key historic figures, from Mary, Queen of Scots, to Elizabeth’s right-hand man Sir Francis Walsingham. Some of them hardly contribute to the plot’s development.
One of the best features of the movie is its costume designs. The gowns are simply breath-taking and certainly fit for a queen. The wigs too offer interesting variety. Splendour and ceremonial displays are a common sight in the movie. At times the figures get lost in its glory.
Horses, soldiers and dance too fill up the scenes, taking us back to the Elizabethan lifestyle of the aristocrats. Each frame is a visual treat. The art department seems to have had their hands full in reviving the rich tapestry woven into the Elizabethan era.
Cate Blanchette plays Queen Elizabeth’s role to perfection. She fully embodies the strength and sensitivity of the Virgin Queen. Though the naïve young girl who first ascended the throne had disappeared to be replaced by the watchful dame, we are tugged in two directions: pitying the aging woman who struggles to outshine her lady-in-waiting’s beauty as well as admiration for the warrior queen who does not hesitate to don amour to see justice served.
Clive Owen makes a dandy Sir Walter but at times his performance lacks depth. Samantha Morton is noteworthy in her brief appearance as Mary Queen of Scots. Abbie Cornish makes a charming Bess Throckmorton.
Queen Elizabeth I had a lengthy reign in England and considering the melodrama revolving around her time, there is a greater potential for another Elizabeth film. Here’s hoping that Kapur will find a better script for the film if it does take shape.