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Film: The Queen

The Queen is a British-French docudrama produced in 2006. It stars Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, and Michael Sheen as the newly-elected Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Hellen Mirren in the film "The Queen"
Actress Helen Mirren in the film "The Queen"

It is 1997, in London, England. Tony Blair's New Labour Party wins the election in a landslide, Diana, Princess of Wales is killed in a car crash in France, the world is in shock and mourning and the British Royal Family is faced with an unprecendented situation. Within days the new, young and inexperienced Prime Minister must hold the country together. In the midst of it all, the media becomes both fiend and friend.

Queen Elizabeth:" I doubt there is anyone who knows the British people more than I do, Mr. Blair, nor who has greater faith in their wisdom and judgement. And it is my belief that they will any moment reject this...this "mood", which is being stirred up by the press, in favor of a period of restrained grief, and sober, private mourning. That's the way we do things in this country, quietly, with dignity. That's what the rest of the world has always admired us for. "

The setting of the film is primarily London, during the summer of 1997 and surrounding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Being a docudrama, original television footage has been used in the film.

Tony Blair has just been elected the Labour Prime Minister in the U.K.'s general election. Blair's party, however, calls themselves the New Labour Party in light of their vision to "modernise" the country. Only three months into his term, Blair is faced with the first challenge of his career - how to save the Royal Family in the eye of the public and how to advise them to react to the death of Princess Diana.

Private Versus Public

While vacationing at their summer residence, Balmoral Castle, the royals receive the news of Diana's death. Their reaction is mixed as are their ideas of how Diana's funeral should take shape. The older generations of the family feel that it should be a private affair organised by Diana's family. The younger generations along with the public, long for a public ceremony in a regal fashion.

Tony Blair becomes a mediator between public opinion, royal protocol and the press, in the midst of a whirlwind of growing anti-monarchism. The British newspapers and tabloids seem to thrive in the growing animosity of the British people towards the Queen and what becomes bad press for the Queen becomes good press for Blair and the New Labour Party.

Nevertheless, Blair begins to struggle with his party's modernist thinking as he develops a closer understanding of the Queen and her traditional role in a changing society.

After Watching the Film

  1. Explain the irony of the film quotation above, said by Queen Elizabeth II .
  2. Explain the terms: traditonalist and anti-monarchist. Under which one of these headings would you place the main characters in the film? Which one are you?
  3. Describe the media's important role at this time when the government and the monarchy face uncertainty.

Characterisation

  1. How does the film portray the development of the Prime Minister's character?
  2. Describe the conflict(s) that the Queen faces thoughout the film. Are they external? Internal? Does she manage to resolve them?

Cinematography:

  1. In your opinion, what effect does the use of original footage have in this film?

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