Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Victoria & Abdul

Stephen Frears’ Victoria and Abdul exudes an unexpected intimacy. Victoria  (Judi Dench) is lonely, but also constipated. An early scene establishes her eccentricities of character amongst which are an intolerance for pomp together with gluttony. She’s the queen and can do what ever she likes even if it includes being a gourmand and falling for an Indian servant, Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), who becomes her spiritual advisor. The comedy of the film derives from her iconoclasm, but there’s also a good deal of pathos since she turns out to be a far cry from the implacable Victoria whose name coined an age. She’s an isolated soul, surrounded by a controlling retinue. One of Dench’s most powerful speeches is a defense of her mental state in the face of challenges from an inner circle that includes her callous son Bertie (Eddie Izzard). Frears directed Florence Foster Jenkins, the story of an heiress who has pretensions to be an opera star  and a similar sentiment rules both films, that of a personage of high estate who has become the laughing stock. The film incidentally provides numerous occasions for Dench to display her virtuosity, in the cause of portraying the enormous complexity of her character. “The banquet hall of eternity” is a line that occurs several times in the movie. Abdul’s role is that of a spiritual factotum, but he’s also an angel who accompanies her as she departs her solitary life. Frears is a director with a social conscience but he seems to have as much pity for the grotesque of the world as the oppressed. 

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