Friday, December 28, 2012

The Cate Blanchett Essentials, #1 / 5

Here it is now, the pompous piece that closes the chapter of The Cate Blanchett Essentials and deserves its position entirely.

Elizabeth (1998) Shekhar Kapur

IMDB: 7.5 - RT: 82/85

The reason
„There are countless reasons: Indian director, Cate's breakthrough, acclamation, period drama and so on. I should have seen this one a long time ago.“

The story
The late middle age, England: Queen Mary I, though already in life's autumn, hasn't produced an heir yet and is threatened by a vicious cancer. Catholics and protestants being at war, the church fears Mary's sister Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) - a protestant woman's bastard and rightful heiress to the throne - to become queen. However, there is nothing they can do when Mary finally becomes overpowered by her illness. Elizabeth, though still young and fragile-seeming, proves to be made of harder stone than her council expected - but at the same time she is haunted by her fear of failure and the people's expectation of her marriage and production of an heir. Even her teenage love Lord Robert turns out not to be the man she thought she knew.

The message
Not every girl chooses to just have fun.

The character
"Virgin queen" as she was later on called, Elizabeth is about everything but that in this epic biopic of her early years. Elfish as in one Cate's most-kown roles - Galadriel - the young queen certainly has her own opinion on how to do things. Of course, mistakes are inevitable - until the very end of the film, when Elizabeth reinvents herself as the virginal ruler that she is most often depicted as. Until then, she must learn the sad lesson of trusting nobody but her own intuition - and Sir Francis of course.
Most astonishingly however, her protecting mask of arrogance and authority almost never cracks, no matter how greatly she has been deceived or tricked. It is only in the presence of her loyal advisor - "friend" is probably unfitting - Sir Francis, that she allows herself to show any feeling. 

The performance
Cate Blanchett is nothing but breathtaking in the role that made her an overnight sensation all over the world. Ruling this entire historical epic with her fairy-like looks and deep, determined voice, is an accomplishment few new-coming actresses, or even established ones, would be able to achieve. She shows Elizabeth's deepest fears and inner wars within split-second expressions, as well as her determination and power. Her body language expresses both the youthful fragility and the mature mind of the young queen, and I honestly don't think that anybody else would have been better suited for the role of Elizabeth. 
It is a performance deserving of any award and all praise in the world - a performance that would make anyone regain their faith in the magic of cinema.

The most impressive scene
Elizabeth has recently found out that her teenage love, lover and suitor is already married to another woman. After not speaking to him for a few days, she - much to his surprise - asks him to dance with her on a ball. A fierce dialogue between the two arises while dancing, climaxing as Lord Robert exclaims: "For God's sake, you are still my Elizabeth!"
Furious with anger, Cate responds: "I am not your Elizabeth. I am no man's Elizabeth. And if you think to rule, you are mistaken." 
Then, turning to everyone else, she announces: "I will have one mistress here... and no master!"

Now that is female power. 
I'm still impressed by Elizabeth's ability to conceal her sadness and/ or turn it into hatred. Of course, Cate Blanchett was another main reason for the power of this scene.

The blemish
Not a single one I can think of. Surely it's not going to be one of my favourite films, but it still is an outstanding representation of both the historical and the biographic genre, including one of the most impressive breakthrough performances I have seen.

Does the film deserve to be called one of the Cate Blanchett Essentials?
In every respect.


Hereby, The Cate Blanchett Essentials are coming to an end. It's been a wonderful and magical journey through some more-or-less good films and five outstanding performances from one of my favourite actresses of the time (all time even). I hope Cate will do more great films in the future, especially ones with her in the lead - there are definitely too few of those. 
It's looking bright though - the future - with an untitled Woody Allen (!!!) and an untitled Terrence Malick (!!!) project coming up in 2013, so I really can't wait to hear more about that.


  1. Great post! Blanchett absolutely astounded me in this film, can't believe she lost out to Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars that year. What a travesty!

    1. Thanks! I had totally forgotten about that - yeah, it's pretty bad. I mean, Gwyneth was ok in Shakespeare in Love but nowhere near Cate at all!!


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