Film: The Queen
Director: Stephen Frears
Performers: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell
Breeds Featured: Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Labrador Retriever
Production Information: Miramax/Pathe/Granada, 2006 (UK)
The epigraph reads, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” a quote from Henry IV, Part II.
Stephen Frears’ The Queen concentrates on one small part of the Queen of England’s now 60 year reign (Diamond Jubilee!) — the days following the death of Princess Diana in 1997. Helen Mirren brilliantly portrays the stoic Queen Elizabeth II. The ever dignified James Cromwell does an uncanny Prince Phillip and Michael Sheen plays a convincing Tony Blair.
The Queen sticks to tradition, preferring to view Diana’s death as a personal family tragedy. Her instinct to protect her grandsons (Princes William and Harry) takes massive precedence over helping Britain, and the rest of the world, cope with Diana’s death.
Frears beautifully directs a hidden story line with the Queen and a stag. She encounters a beautiful, highly sought after stag when her car gets stuck in a creek. She begs the Stag to leave, shooing it as she can hear stalkers (hunters) in the distance.
A poignant scene follows later in the film. The Queen has found out that stalkers have killed the impressive stag and she takes it very much to heart. Still, the Queen does not let one of subjects see her emotion, turning away to shed a tear for the fallen prized stag.
This is a film that begs to be interpreted by its viewer. Though everyone speaks and the events are clear – there is a lingering question — can we ever really know a person? The Queen is shown at the end of the each day struggling to make sense of it all. Is she just like us? She has a family, she faces hardships, she has feelings and above all she is a fallible human.
One thing that makes her quite human is her attachment to her dogs.
The Queen’s most well known dogs are, of course, her Pembroke Welsh Corgis. She has kept Corgis for 60 years.
The film shows the Queen doing quite normal things like camping and bringing her dogs along.
She speaks to them, walks them frequently and includes them in her matters of State.
Where she goes, they go.
The film also shows the Queen with three black Labrador retrievers, although much isn’t said about their significance or level of favoritism the Queen pays them. In one scene, she loads them into her old and rickety Land Rover, asking them if they are ready for “walkies.”
Real attention is paid to the involvement of the dogs in the Queen’s every day life, whereas in other films the dogs play a minor role, a comedic role, or some other negligible function. Though these Corgis and Labs weren’t on Frears’ billing, they seem to play quite a hefty role in how the Queen lives daily. Pretty cool… considering her profile and lifestyle.
With all the current focus on “The Royals,” this film is a must-see. It seeks to humanize the figure head of the British monarchy. Is the Queen just like you or me? Or does she lead a life we will never fully understand – and we therefore have no business criticizing in time of tragedy like that of the loss of “The People’s Princess?” I suppose it is up to your interpretation.
Following up on Jen’s observations, I tracked down the DVD and rifled through the audio commentary track with director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Peter Morgan. It seemed to me that they were less sensitive to the role of the dogs in the Queen’s daily life than we were, as they themselves were taken aback by the presence of the Labradors. “The Corgis haven’t been dyed black, right?” “No, those are Labradors. I suppose it’s a different kind of walk, isn’t it?” they joke to each other. They also pointed out an amusing goof, where two Labs enter the Land Rover in one scene, but three Labs exit the vehicle.
Nevertheless, no film about the Queen would be complete without some reference to her famous canine companions. Thanks again to Jen for her astute review!