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Why the royal fuss?


Elizabeth Enthroned

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Are Weir and her ilk overreacting? Is it really so awful for cinema to indulge in a few anachronisms? Or even outright fictionalizations? After all, we go to the movies for entertainment, not a fusty old history lesson.

Yes, Hollywood has consistently traded history for histrionics. Previous films about Queen Elizabeth —most notoriously 1953's Young Bess, with Jean Simmons— also fired up the romantic intrigue; meanwhile, other critically acclaimed historical epics, from Roots to Braveheart, have been accused of fudging the facts for drama's sake.

In one interview, Blanchett defends the film, saying that because Kapur & Co. didn't set out to make a historically accurate film, experts like Weir shouldn't criticize the result.

Not surprisingly, the author disagrees. "I care from the point of view as a historian who has spent years researching this era," she says. "The truth is far more interesting than fiction. If you take liberties with the facts, then people take the film as fact. Just like oral history, it propagates distortions."

Nonetheless, Weir does concede that copper-haired Blanchett makes an excellent Elizabeth. "She's superb," she says, "and obviously studied the character. It's a shame to put her performance, however, in poor historical perspective."

The debate whether Elizabeth is history in the making or the faking will surely dog its theatrical run, yet one fact should remain untouchably indisputable: As far as historical legends go, this imperious queen still rules.




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