the queen and i


just saw stephen frears’ film ‘the queen’ – a strange and rather splendid movie, with helen mirren in what is immediately out of the gate as the front runner for performance of the year.

we’re used to seeing nothing of the ‘real’ royal family, and portrayals of them on-screen tend toward the satiric – but frears is too mature a director for that – while there is almost no way we could possibly judge the veracity of the story in this film – that of how the queen responded in the immediate aftermath of the tragic death of princess diana – this film manages to make convincing human beings out of – especially – elizabeth windsor and tony blair.

there was a sense of something like relief among the audience i saw it with – as if we have been bursting to see these public figures behave like real people. the communal feeling might best be summed up as socio-psychological dam bursting – as finally got to see humanity behind the usual steely public demeanour. blair comes out of the film as a calculating man, alistair campbell as a political machine, the queen as a woman of stature and dignity who represents something rare in contemporary society – someone who believes that their life exists for the sake of something bigger than themselves.

now i would not want to go much further than that – the monarchy is not an institution that i would invest a lot of time endorsing – but there is something about this film that made me feel that i understood more about the epochal cultural changes that have happpened to britain, ireland, and europe in the past ten years.

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10 responses to “the queen and i

  1. Existential Punk

    Sounds interesting and i will definitely have to check it out. i LOVE Helen Mirren – she is a brilliant actress. Thanks! Adele

  2. Little-remembered factoid you might like: in the 60s, the Royal Family did a fly-on-the-wall documentary for the BBC. It was supposed to boost their popularity by showing — oh the joyous, horrible naivety — how ‘normal’ they all were. The Queen was a big fan of TV at the time; she wanted to do lots more of it and had insisted that her coronation be televised.

    Anyhoo, the doc backfired massively. Almost everyone watched it, but in her attempt to look ordinary Her Majesty ended up looking, well, ordinary. The show broke the sacred distance between Lord and serf and the Windsors’ popularity started to plummet. Ever since she’s refused to do almost any TV at all (and makes life very difficult for anyone who wants to use the clips from the 60s show). I heard somewhere that whoever the broadcaster she now always uses the same camera operator and sound recordist.

    So lots of people have had their fingers burned with reality TV, but dear Liz was one of the first. It’s one of the reasons she hides from it now.

    Sorry, you may know all this. It just makes me laugh that she has to hide to maintain the star quality.

  3. gareth higgins

    fascinating as always mr simon 3w – i’m in your mysterious city from sunday until thursday of next week – wanna meet up at some point?

  4. For shizzle. The benign narcissist says we’re amassing at his gig on the Wednesday?

  5. Haven’t seent he film, but I’ve no time for monarchy. Why don’t you say what you mean about monarchy, instead of dancing round the edges of it. It’s a institution that’s impossible to defend in a democracy. Produces chronies, and abuses people. Agree or disagree?

  6. gareth higgins

    not sure i was dancing around the edges of what i think about the monarchy – my view is that elitism generally isn’t a good thing, but i don’t think that doing away with the monarchy is necessarily going to automatically lead to an egalitarian society – and one or two members of our current royal family do at least seem to try to embody the idea of public service, whereas i think that politicians at the top of the tree often behave no differently to those with the worst kind of attitude to their inherited privileges.

  7. Not dancing round the edges of the point, but you think elitism “generally” (!) “isn’t a good thing”! It don’t get more elitist than monarchy, mate! Removing hereditary privilege from the British constitution is a step towards a fuller democracy. Are you prepared to say that you support that? If you do agree with monarchy within a free and equal society, how do you defend it? Yep, I’m a constitutional republican – im an american, so the R word sometimes gets a bad press, but I mean it in a more general sense here. I’d the impression you are writin a Christian blog here – how can a christian defend a constitutionally stratified society???

  8. we can’t defend it and i’m not.

    i meant elitism generally, rather than elitism, generally. i.e. elitism is a bad idea per se.

    but the solution to this is not simple. i don’t care for the monarchy – that much should be clear. but i don’t think that abolishing it is a priority for me. i also don’t think that a formal monarchy is necessarily much worse than an informal political elite.

  9. i love the smell of argy bargy in the afternoon….

    how can a christian defend a constitutionally stratified society?

    i don’t know. should ask your president.

  10. We don’t have a constitution to stratify. The Royal Family are still there because we — the democratic we rather than me or anyone else here — want them to be. Bit like the death penalty in the US.