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The new film by Greek Yorgos Lanthimos is next on our countdown to the Academy Awards
The Favourite is the most recent production of the very rare Yorgos Lanthimos. His previous films, impressive genius, had been very rare for the Academy Awards. This time he collaborated with two actresses with whom he has already worked: Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz. This duo is joined by one of the fashion actresses: Emma Stone, to put together the trio that stars in the most commercial of her films. The Favourite is nominated 10 times in 9 different categories of the Academy Awards.
Leer en español: Cuenta regresiva para los Óscar: The Favourite
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A biopic that's not a biopic
The film revolves around the relationship between Queen Anne of England (Olivia Colman) and her friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), a relationship that trembles with the arrival of a servant cousin of Sarah, Abigail (Emma Stone). The Favourite is set in the 18th century in the middle of England's war with France, but it is far from being a period drama.
The Favourite is, first of all, a comedy. But combining the atmosphere of royalty with the grotesque comedy is not an oddity of Lanthimos but a resource of the film to explore issues that can be addressed from the relationship between these three women. Thus, unlike other biopics this year as Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite is about much more than the life of its protagonist.
The life of Queen Anne and the war between England and France are just pretexts to talk about other issues such as power, love, and friendship. Lanthimos uses the life of Queen Anne and the context in which she lived to talk about other things besides the life of Queen Anne and its context: the film transcends her subject.
The film begins when the no longer noble Abigail arrives at the palace in search of work. With her arrival, a fight between her and Sarah to see who's the favorite of the queen Ana. The queen, not naive but ingenious, enjoys and promotes the dirty game between the two women in the competition for her attention.
Aware of her power but also of her ignorance, Queen Anne is a complex and funny character who lets herself be manipulated by the two women. It can be seen in it, and thanks in part to the script and partly to the magnificent interpretation of Colman, the grotesque of luxury. Thus, the setting of the period is not free if you want to talk about how vulgar the maximum power is.
Queen Anne suffers from severe attacks of gout that make her scream in pain and cause nasty sores on her legs. Instead of a denial of the body, as is often seen in period dramas in which the nobles never go to the bathroom, in The Favourite, there is an exaltation of the sick and tired body of the queen. It would seem that in the palace, in the luxury of royalty, there could be no food without gluttony or desire without lust.
The costumes of the film, also nominated for the Oscar, is excellent, not for its loyalty to the era but for achieving, together with the makeup, to express the exaggerated and almost caricature of the luxury of the palace and royalty. The film also teases with the lens it chooses (a fisheye that distorts the characters and the scenarios) and with the rare frames that focus the physical defects of the queen and the noble characters of absurd and unnecessary luxury.
Read also: Countdown to the Oscars: Bohemian Rhapsody
Love and power
The sick body of the queen plays a double role in the film. Besides mocking the power and showing the grotesque of luxury, it serves to show the sickness of love and power. An instrument in the fight for the queen's favor is her own body: both women want to prove that they can cure her and take better care of her than the other. But at the same time, they need the sick queen to make themselves useful, to be necessary.
This game is well understood by Sarah, who has lived in the palace for a longer time: she insults the queen and threatens her with earning a position as her peer. Thus, Sarah needs an insecure and sick queen to alleviate those evils and become necessary in her life. And with the queen's favor would come the political power: Sarah is the voice that whispers in her ear that war should follow.
There is an unhealthy relationship between love and power: Sarah needs a wounded queen to be loved just as the monarchy needs a people beaten by war to be needed. Publicly and privately, love and respect are born of a need that in turn arises from harming the other. Ana and Sarah must harm their people and their queen respectively to justify their existence.
As for the world of men, the movie makes fun of it. Men handle the public: there is also a rivalry between two members of parliament to be prime minister. This competition is much less strategic and ingenious than that of women. Men, in fact, become an instrument in the female game.
The film explores this division between the public and the private, which represents the masculine and the feminine, respectively, in a much more interesting way than, for example, the one also nominated for the Best Actress category The Wife. Here, instead of an obvious lament of the relegation of women to the private space, there is a mockery of public space, of which men think themselves owners. In the end, they do not realize that what matters is not what happens in the debates of the parliament but what happens in the queen's apartments. And that's what women own.
LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Rodríguez Pabón
Translated from "Cuenta regresiva para los Óscar: The Favourite"