the queen and i

just saw stephen frears' film 'the queen' - a strange and rather splendid movie, with helen mirren in what is immediately out of the gate as the front runner for performance of the year.

we're used to seeing nothing of the 'real' royal family, and portrayals of them on-screen tend toward the satiric - but frears is too mature a director for that - while there is almost no way we could possibly judge the veracity of the story in this film - that of how the queen responded in the immediate aftermath of the tragic death of princess diana - this film manages to make convincing human beings out of - especially - elizabeth windsor and tony blair.

there was a sense of something like relief among the audience i saw it with - as if we have been bursting to see these public figures behave like real people. the communal feeling might best be summed up as socio-psychological dam bursting - as finally got to see humanity behind the usual steely public demeanour. blair comes out of the film as a calculating man, alistair campbell as a political machine, the queen as a woman of stature and dignity who represents something rare in contemporary society - someone who believes that their life exists for the sake of something bigger than themselves.

now i would not want to go much further than that - the monarchy is not an institution that i would invest a lot of time endorsing - but there is something about this film that made me feel that i understood more about the epochal cultural changes that have happpened to britain, ireland, and europe in the past ten years.