Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Every Proper Queen Needs Her Wellies and a Good Ghillie, Part 2

As the terrible week following Di's death in Paris unfolds, the queen continues to be sequestered at Balmoral Castle in Scotland with her immediate family, grandsons and a small staff. The longer she and the Royal Family keep their lives and turmoil private, the louder the world clamors for her attention.

It is a time of unprecedented soul-searching for her if not conflicted, though subdued, emotions.

While this movie could have gone off in all sorts of tangential directions focusing on the ever widening public and worldwide commotion of these days; in the end, its power lies its ability to stay calm and focused on the queen, the queen, and nothing but the queen. The outside issues are dealt with only as they directly impact and are impacted by the lady herself.

This is as it should be: it's far more satisfying for the audience to know the central character in greater depth, than its being carried off in all directions, like a chicken with its head cut off. The director is to be commended for this.

Everyone plays a supporting role to the queen, even as the boys who have just lost their mother are seen off in the distance--in their bedroom and on the river practicing their casting--to the unfolding story of their grandmother with her dilemma of how best to serve her family and her people in the face of such unchartered events.

What of this woman and her character as revealed in The Queen? What then commends it to an audience and how most poignantly is her character conveyed?

Quietly, subtlely and in an understated, dignified manner. (This is one of the reasons that this movie can be seen again and thought about for days. It also attests to the staying power of the queen herself in an institution many, including me, thought was near extinction. I would no longer bet on it.)

To my own great delight, one of its most powerful and revealing scenes takes place with the queen outdoors, alone in the wildlands of Scotland.

It starts at her ghillies' cottage, where her gameskeepers are gathered. She comes knocking at the door whereupon she is greeted informally. There is respect accorded any lady, but all formal queenly protocols are suspended. The queen shines as she asks for directions to her husband's hunting expedition. Though the head ghillie offers to accompany her, she will have none of it, preferring instead to go on alone in her old Land Rover.

Of course this is all projection on my part, but I can't help but think this must be delicious time for the queen, even as she grapples with one of the greatest crisises of her reign. Time alone, batting around in beautiful scenery, fresh air, peace and quiet. Time not having to talk or be talked to, as the rest of the world seems to be going mad.

The scene progresses, she comes to the river which she must cross. As she drives through shallow water, the axle hits a rock, cracking her vehicle's front shaft, stalling her journey indefinitely.

While she waits for her ghilly's arrival and assistance after calmly calling him on her cell phone, the queen begins to take in the sights and sounds of the natural beauty around her with a sense of quiet awe.

It is then she begins to cry. Stranded, alone, and surrounded by creation, she finally allows herself the indulgence of a good cry.

Some people claim they can only have such a cry in the presence of a loved one or good listener. But I'm with the queen here, as some of the best cries I've ever had have been on a stream, alone.

But even her private flow of emotion is short-lived as she hears a rustle and turns to see a large 14-point stag staring her in the face. It's as if this magnificent creature has come to commiserate the human condition and unavoidable paradoxes of life and death.

As she looks through tears in startled delight, she finds solace in the unexpected eye contact with this creature. The Queen of England and the King of the Highlands cross paths in a momentary rapt mutual admiration society.

And then, hearing gunshots off in the distance, the queen shoos the great stag away, back into the wilds from wence he came, hoping to save his life, even for a little longer.

I shall be back one more time on some more observations on The Queen and why we need her and what she stands for more than ever.

Then again, I may become a career blogger on all things queen. It sure beats posting on the likes of sex expert Scarlett Johansson, new House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi or presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton.

They, and I, could surely take a few lessons from the queen who has endured for over 50 years both in her private as well as public life.

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