Wednesday, December 06, 2006

'Elizabeth', the film

Sometimes I think there’s a genie in my TV. Or something (someone?) providing guidance (no, not a Goddess chip, though that’s not a bad idea)--getting me in front of the tube at the right time and prompting me to click it on. This has happened in the past, for example, with the History Channel’s programs on the Da Vinci Code. For instance, late at night I’ve fallen asleep in front of the TV. I wake up and there is "Beyond the Da Vinci Code" playing. Once I fell asleep while watching it only to awake several hours later at exactly the same point! And then there was the time in 1992 when I came home Saturday night, hadn’t watched SNL for years (well, at least months). I had been dancing and usually would have headed straight for a bath (showers in the morning, baths before bed), but for some reason I decided to turn on the TV instead. There was Sinead O’Conner saying, "Fight the real enemy," and holding up a picture of the Pope. I watched in wonder as she angrily tore up the picture.

The latest instance of my TV guidance was a couple days ago. I hadn’t been feeling well and so did something I rarely do, put on the TV in middle of the day. I clicked it on and right there on the channel it was set to, AMC, was a movie that looked familiar. It was "Elizabeth," about Queen Elizabeth I of England, a film I had seen when it came out in 1998. I had liked it a lot, not because I’m a history buff, but because of its mythological aspects and implications for women today. (The rest of the post contains spoilers, but I don’t think that will spoil it for most folks, since the plot is already well known.)

The movie, with Cate Blanchette as Elizabeth, has been criticized for having some historical inaccuracies, to which I would add anachronistic background music (for example, music by Mozart, composed in a later century). But historicity is not where the value of this film lies for me. It’s deepest impact is Elizabeth’s transition from real-life woman to "Virgin Queen." Elizabeth had one lover in this film, Robert Dudley, Earl Of Liecester, and there have been rumours (I’ll use the British spelling here) of others for, well, centuries. So, she was not, in fact, physiologically virgin. Despite encouragement of her advisors to marry to secure her throne, Elizabeth refused to marry any man, including Dudley, because she felt she could have no man be her master and still rule in the way she wanted to rule. This is the point in the movie that the mythological aspects began resonating for me, because the concept "Virgin, " when talking about Virgin goddesses, doesn’t mean not having sex, but rather refers to a strong independent (often young) woman who is not beholden to or dependent upon, any man. After the young Queen overcomes her enemies (it gets bloody here, I closed my eyes during the beheadings), Elizabeth senses that she needs to do something more to have as much respect as a male monarch would, and it is here that the mythological aspect of the film becomes more explicit.

After the massacres, Elizabeth is shown in a church (Westminster Abbey?) talking with a spiritual advisor. She is standing in front of a statue of Virgin Mary. The Queen wonders aloud why "men" still honor Mary (remember, this is after England broke from the Roman Catholic Church). Her advisor replies that people need such a figure and, "they have found no one to replace her." The next scene shows Elizabeth having her gorgeous red hair cut while someone prepares a white powdery-pasty substance. After her haircut, she says, "I have become a Virgin."

In the final, powerful, scene, we see Elizabeth as we have seen her in paintings: white-faced and wigged–with, I suppose, her own red hair. In order to rule, she has put aside her human feelings and with them society’s definition of "woman," to become what is to me a demi-goddess. Her face an unchanging white masque that looks like china or alabaster, her unchanging hair, even her unchanging demeanor, transform her into an apparently superhuman being robed in the mythology of the "Virgin."

To me, this resonates today for woman in political and corporate spheres, at least in the US and perhaps elsewhere. Can a woman rise to great power in the U.S. national government (or corporate world) without depending on a man to establish her power and secure her position? Can a woman be in a position of great power without people referring her person (for example, more attention paid to what's she's wearing than what's she's saying) and her family life in ways that would never be the case with a man?

And if not, centuries after Elizabeth I, why not?

Did I mention that the photography in this film is stunning? AMC is running ‘Elizabeth’ again on Thursday Dec. 14 at 12:30 p.m. I suggest that, if possible, you tape it (or record it with one of those newfangled gizmos) and run either when or where not too much light is entering the room, so you can get the full impact of the photography.


Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

 Subscribe in a reader

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

Judith Laura

More blogs about /goddess/feminist theology/spiritual feminism/pagan/feminist spirituality/.