SHEKHAR KAPUR'S BLOG – ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE
DIVINE ELIZABETH, MORTAL BESS
Shekhar Kapur kept a blog during the making of Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and
this entry, posted on Sunday, March 19, 2006, gives a profound insight into how
the filmmaker approached his subject, the Queen, and his film. He is fascinated
by the duality within the monarch … between her divinity and the mortal flesh
and blood. It’s one of the keys to understanding his film.
On a Mythic level, the film is about the conflict between the forces of Dark and
Light. On a political level it is a conflict between the forces of
Fundamentalism and Tolerance. It is NOT a moral stand on a conflict between two
religions. It is important for the film to state that, and I am concerned that
all the fundamentalist forces, the Dark forces are Catholic in our story. There
is fundamentalism in all religions.
Elizabeth believes in her Divinity. She aspires to it. But is plagued with
mortal blood that runs through her veins. But she is in denial. She believes
that she is in control of her Mortal self. Her emotional and sexual self. Yet in
the film we can see through the cracks in that. For she has created her mortal
aspirations in the form of another being, That of Bess. Call her relationship
voyeuristic if you like. Bess is of Flesh and Blood, she is what Elizabeth
denies of herself. The more Elizabeth denies her Mortal self, the more she
encourages that in Bess. Elizabeth does see Bess as a 'pet' that she is control
of. Which does not mean she is not compassionate, just that she does not ever
see Bess as having a strong individuality of her own, outside Elizabeth.
Elizabeth sees her Divinity and her Realm as one. But her realm is under threat.
By a presence that is Absolute in his Divinity. Phillip is Divine. he may not be
righteous, he may be tyrannical, he may be a force of the Dark side. But he is
more Divine than Elizabeth. For he has completely let go of his Mortal self.
And into Elizabeth's world comes Walter Raleigh. A man at his most Mortal. He is
of Flesh and Blood. It's as if the Gods had sent their most Mortal being to test
Elizabeth. They probably did. For the balance between the Dark and the Light
forces was being upset. By Phillip. And the Gods needed Elizabeth to be Divine
to oppose Phillip and restore the balance. In the sheer presence of his
Mortality though, Elizabeth feels the blood throbbing in veins. Emotions that
she had thought she was long in control of, surface with intensity.
"she is in denial of her mortal self"
Does she recognize this immediately. I doubt it. Don't forget she is in
denial of her mortal self. She assumes that she is still in control and begins
to a dangerous exploration of the possibility of a mortal relationship. Is it
possible to be Divine and yet explore ? She wonders and her passions make her
believe that is possible. A relationship that perhaps can be neatly divided into
two. One of the Spirit, separated from one of the self. She is treading a
dangerous path here.
But how does one have such a divided relationship with so Mortal a man ? For
Walter Raleigh does not see the division. That is not who he is. He is
constantly challenging that division. Between the Queen and the Woman. That is
his audaciousness. There are other things that attract her to Raleigh. His
Mortality brings with it a sense of fearlessness. A sense of Freedom. His
This provokes vestiges of Elizabeth's own desires to break free. To sail into
the wind. To voyage beyond the calculativeness of being on the Throne. But can
she be Queen and be free at the same time ? Surely not. It is only later that
Elizabeth recognizes that there is a freedom beyond the adventures of Mortals.
Freedom from Mortality and into Divinity is a greater freedom that allows the
Spirit to truly roam. Freed of it's links to the desires of the mortal self.
While Elizabeth was fiercely attracted to Raleigh's sense of freedom and of his
'Immensities', she realizes at the end that her Immensities and those of Raleigh
On another level of course, Elizabeth is attracted to the man that remains free
of her power, and yet wants somehow to bring him under her control. That is the
dichotomy. That is the nature of the mortal human being. The desire to bring
under your control that which excites your very innate sense of being free. The
first thing we desire is the to clip the wings of freedom,
And Elizabeth does that in the form of Bess. Both unable and unwilling to fully
explore her mortal (both emotional and sexual) self, she protects herself by
encouraging a relationship between Raleigh and Bess. One one level it is
vicarious. "You are my adventurer, Bess" she says. On another level it is
control. For Bess is her doll in a way, and she keeps Raleigh 'on a leash' by
through this other relationship. On a mythic level, Bess is her Mortal self, so
she IS exploring a mortal relationship.
"Riding an emotional tiger"
But Elizabeth is mistaken in thinking she is in control. She both wants to,
but does not want to, know about this relationship. Riding an emotional tiger,
she really believes it is possible to be divine and Mortal at the same time.
Published November 15, 2007
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