Shekhar Kapur Brings the Great Queen to Life, Again

Shekhar Kapur’s new movie Elizabeth – The Golden Age is a worthy sequel to his Elizabeth released nine years ago.

Academy award winner Cate Blanchett is once again Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen in all her resplendent glory.

Perhaps England’s greatest Queen, Elizabeth I ruled for 45 years in a time of much religious conflict in Europe.

Beset by hostile forces from within and without, Elizabeth I was a sovereign much beloved by her five million subjects. And the Queen amply reciprocated her people’s affections.

As Elizabeth declared in her last address to the House of Commons in the so called Golden Speech:

And though you have had and may have many mightier and wiser princes sitting in this seat, yet you never had, nor shall have, any love you better.

Cate Blanchett does a fine job in her portrayal of this extraordinary Queen in her many moods – at war, agonizing over the death sentence on her plotting sister, playful with her suitors, stern with her court and dependent on her advisers William Cecil and Francis Walsingham.

Clive Owens delights us as Walter Raleigh, the pirate who enthralls Elizabeth with his tales of distant voyages.

There’s much to like in Elizabeth – The Golden Age.

Besides the joy of watching fine performers like Cate Blanchett, Clive Owens and Geoffrey Rush, there’s also nice photography, marvellous period costumes, fine set design, the epic grandeur of the story and above all, watching one of history’s great figures come to life on the big screen.

The Queen’s jousts with the old foggies in her court, the religious wars, immense pressure on her to marry, the war against Spain, the trysts with Walter Raleigh, Elizabeth – The Golden Age has all that and more.

In two hours, Elizabeth – The Golden Age covers a lot of ground indeed.

However, one of the glaring shortcomings of Elizabeth – The Golden Age is the poorly executed fighting scenes. England’s war against the Spanish armada is one of the most clumsy battle scenes ever depicted on the screen. Perhaps, they’d be considered good by Bollywood standards. But definitely not by Hollywood standards.

Still, the shortcomings notwithstanding we can’t think of any living Indian director with such mastery over the craft of filmmaking as Shekhar Kapur. He makes most of our Bollywood directors – the Priyadarshans, Pradeep Sarkars and Vidhu Vinod Chopras – seem like rank amateurs.

Our first Shekhar Kapur film was the delightful Masoom, a lift of Erich Sehgal’s touching novel Man, Woman and Child. In 1987, we watched our second Shekhar Kapur movie Mr.India, starring Anil Kapoor and Sridevi and one of the finest – and very successful too – Bollywood films ever made.

Although the finest Indian movie director today, Shekhar Kapur is not in the same league as other foreign born directors in Hollywood like the Taiwanese director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain) or the Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth). Ang Lee and Guillermo del Toro cast a spell over us. Alas, we can’t say the same about Shekhar Kapur yet.

Catch Elizabeth – The Golden Age at a theater near you and watch its prequel Elizabeth by getting the DVD from Netflix or your neighborhood Blockbuster.

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