Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Duchess

I just got back from seeing The Duchess with Kiera Knightley. It's apparently based on Amanda Foreman's biography of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire in the late eighteenth century. The movie has inspired me to read this biography whenever I find the time.

I was impressed with Knightley's transition from a high-spirited, but still anxious to please girl of seventeen to a more jaded and decisive, but still emotional and anxious to please woman. Her character reminded me strongly of Marie Antoinette, though more in control of herself. The Duchess makes her statement through the womanly arts of fashion and motherhood, as well as plays and politics. It is refreshing to see a historical woman portrayed strongly and still emotionally sympathetic. In my studies on Elizabeth I, I looked at many of the recent films, and she is either an amenable passionate damsel, a cold bitch, or some unbelievable schizophrenic mixture. Helen Mirren in the HBO version does the best job, in my opinion. I felt that the issues of gender inequality were very well explored, and I appreciated the tight focus on the Duchess' personal life rather than on politics and the more general issues of the day. As far as I have been able to tell, it was very historically accurate, which is not usually the case. The "Becoming Jane" travesty being a prime example.

I would advise anyone with a general interest in historical fiction to see The Duchess, but also people interested in celebrities today would probably enjoy the scandals of her life.

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