The costume epic “The Favourite” is not only a black-humoured drama, which is settled at the British royal court, if you cut the nobility down to the bare nerve then you can also make a comment on the present far away from the power games, sex and jealousy. And with this director Yorgos Lanthimos’ puts down his very own handwriting on the film world. Those who can open themselves to experimental flicks will get to see something in his latest work that isn’t often offered in the cinema, but you also have to turn a blind eye at many places, as they seem to be bulky. Nonetheless, one can clearly say that these bizarre ideas work, as the creator believes in his own art. And that’s what “The Favourite” is all about – being different and standing out from the crowd.
“The Favourite”: A Tale about Power
It’s the exact moment whem Olivia Colman’s wheelchair is getting pushed over the screen, that she theatrically manages to shifts her face into total grieve and screams at her servants to stay quiet. In this moment nobody would assume that she is embodying an elegant personality such as a monarch. But the figure you get to see on the silver screen is in no way new territory for the British actress, since she loves to play peculiar and atypical characters since very much the beginning of her career and yet the latest Oscar winner manages to pull all her emotions and her heart into this role. And this is where greek director Yorks Lanthimos comes into play, who takes such a figure and allows to trade it in the contrast of all expectations. Lanthimos has proven in his three latest works “Doogtooth” (2009), “The Lobster” (2015) and “The Killing of A Sacred Deer” (2017), that his entire filmography contains disturbing but extraordinary settings. As you would’ve expect his newest costume drama “The Favourite” is no exception, since the director attaches great importance to experiment with his latitude, rather than focusing to connect with a wider audience. It’s a high form of art, that “The Favourite” can be labelled as his most accessible film on one hand, even though it still contains scenarios like duck races and even pelting food on fat people. The mixture of classical historical drama and comedy, as it is the case here, is brilliant in every aspect, which is certainly to dated back to screenwriters Deborah David and Tony McNamara. They managed to let their characters act in such a goofy and absurd way, but in the next moment the laughter gets stuck in your throat because of the tone shifting. The dialogues are clever, vicious and always on point – especially Nicolas Hoult excels with his comedic timing and his humor. Nevertheless, one should not forget what the meaning of these cynical comments are – the film conveys a message that goes far below the surface and reveals the tragic behavior patterns of it’s bitter characters. Behind these distant and adverse personalities lies more humanity than one would suspect. While Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) wants her personal self-benefit of of her Majesty’s favor, Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) counteract the patriotism of the country. All the adversities she is willing to conduct for her queen are not exclusively based on her love for Queen Anne, but also on her personal urge for power and security for the state. But Sarah’s personal motivation limits her in the shootout with Abigail, because the queen identifies herself as the personification of the state, while Sarah finds the political machinations of more value. And that’s exactly why Sarah has to watch Abigail wrapping her lover around the finger in a false game of calming the Queen’s favour. And that’s exactly what “The Favourite” is about – the film shines above all through the radical change of the narrative dynamic, as the viewer’s preferred mistress changes in almost every scene and you find yourself in a continuous circle with the question of which of Queen Anne’s loved ones is the good and which is the bad one. However, the film doesn’t separate these two moralities, for Lanthimos neither Sarah nor Abigail reflects the classic image of an antagonist. He much more obvious builds up the question, who decides how good and evil are to be separated from another, since both sides lay in the human nature. While in the first act it might seems like Sarah Churchill tries to relegate the sympathizer Abigail, one has to realize that she seems to have her own abysses and that she lives out the darkness in us humans to the fullest. The only exception is Olivia Colman’s figure, who is the void in the center of the moral representation. She is the walking proof that mankind is too small for the great power of an empire, which is the reason why she prefers to rule two women instead of leading the country. Olivia Colman enters a daring territory for this role, but manages to make the sadness, loneliness and entanglement of her character palpable throughout the film and brings something grounded to the screen. As the viewer you can feel her melancholy, because she is nothing more than a bird trapped in a cage, which is looked at by everyone, but not perceived correctly and therefore she can’t leave the dark chambers and has to live in this cage forever. Lanthimos and his cameraman Robbie Ryan show Queen Anne’s isolation exclusively with wide-angle lenses, which offer a distorted view of the reality at the royal court and cause confusion with the fisheye view. Thus, the director calls out the streamlined pictures and it’s oppressive moments, which have the same effect as Queen Anne’s inner life herself. The dark score blurs within the chamber play, the tragic soul of the character often get lost in the shadow of the royal chambers. Yorgos Lanthimos catapults these emotions onto the screen, on the one hand it seems completely grotesque, on the other hand these stubborn pictures don’t let you go after you’ve looked at them for a while.
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