I first saw Queen of the Desert as part of a test screening back in October 2015. Test screening is a pretty serious process that you sign an agreement not to make public comments on the parts of the movie that have not been made public yet. Thus, I decided to publish my review only when the movie is released in the US Theaters. And now that the VERY LONG wait is over, and that I have seen Queen of the Desert at the IFC Center in NYC on the day it opened (the final version is a bit different from the test screening version), I am fired and ready to go share my thoughts about the movie with you!
In a nutshell, Queen of the Desert is a film about Gertrude Bell who had a pretty unconventional life, particularly as a woman, in early 20th century. She was a traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, political attaché and a spy for the British Empire in the Middle East. She played a significant role in shaping the politics of the Middle East and drew up the borders of modern Jordan as well as Iraq. Think of more or less a female Lawrence of Arabia.Continue reading “Damian Lewis BRIGHTENS the Screen in Queen of The Desert”
Finally, Queen of the Desert, with Damian Lewis in the role of Charles Doughty-Wylie, is being released to wider audiences in the US. Nicole Kidman’s very successful run with HBO’s Big Little Lies must have provided the impetus needed to give this 2015 film a stateside release.
The film will be in theaters April 7 and available on demand on April 14.
Need a refresher on what this film is about and why you should go see it? Here’s what I had to say after the first few international previews came out last year.
Tomorrow is Remembrance day, aka Poppy Day in the Commonwealth countries: a memorial day observed to remember the members of their armed forces who died in the line of duty in the Great War. It coincides with Veterans Day in the US that was proclaimed first as Armistice Day at the end of the First World War and that honors all men and women that served in the United States Armed Forces. Remembrance Day is observed on November 11 in most countries because the hostilities of WWI ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”, in accordance with the armistice signed that day between the representatives of Germany and the Entente. And, red poppies became a symbol of the day due to the WWI poem In Flanders Fieldsthat talks about red poppies blooming over some of the worst battlefields in Flanders.
So I thought it would be appropriate to travel back to WWI in our Throwback Thursday today. But what does Damian Lewis have to do with WWI? Well, firstly, Damian is playing a WWI soldier in Queen of the Desert but also he participated in a WWI poetry reading in 2014 as part of the centenary commemorations of the Great War.
We’ve just learned that IFC films has acquired the U.S. rights to Queen of the Desert. We’ll finally be able to see it when IFC releases the film in Spring 2017! On the occasion of this great news, let’s revisit what I’ve written about the film so far.
Truth be told, Queen of the Desert has had, at best, mixed reviews everywhere it’s been screened. All signs point to the film being a rather conventionally shot story of West meets East. The muted palette with which it’s filmed lends it the feeling of a world seen through a thin layer of dust. Yet while we feel the heat rise off the sand, it seems we’re also at a cold remove from the characters. Perhaps this is one of the biggest critiques of the film: that the layers of dust don’t really let us into the character’s hearts. For his part, Damian Lewis in the part of Charles Doughty-Wylie (Richard) certainly does try to convey the contents of his heart in his scenes with Nicole Kidman as Gertrude Bell.
In light of upcoming international releases for Queen of the Desert, allow me to take you on a visual trip into some screenshots from German clips and “fotos” released from the official German site for the film. No word yet on when we can see this large-scale saga on our screens in the U.S. Reviews abroad, so far, have been mixed, some going so far as to say that with such a conventional romantic epic, Herzog has stepped perilously far from the avant-garde aesthetic which has defined his work to date. Needless to say, one of the preeminent directors of our time certainly took a chance with this enterprise. But, what’s the value of achieving preeminence if not to be given a license to take chances every now and then? One thing is certain from the trailers and clips we’ve seen: the actors involved in this project have given it their all. I’ll, of course, focus here on Damian’s work in this film, picking apart the few glimpses we’ve seen so far.