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.
By now, you all know that one of the highly anticipated Damian Lewis projects this year is Queen of the Desert, directed by celebrated director Werner Herzog and starring Nicole Kidman, Damian Lewis, Robert Pattinson and James Franco. The movie had its World Premiere at Berlinale 2015 and will be coming to the US movie theaters in winter 2015 according to the official movie website.
Queen of the Desert is essentially a biopic of Gertrude Bell, a traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, political attaché and a spy for the British Empire in the Middle East in the early 20th century. She shaped 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.
Damianista and I are always batting around the idea of serendipity: Our mutual love of finding gems in places where we weren’t looking for them, and then making luck where we find it. We also have a way of finishing each other’s thoughts or typing the same ideas or observations at the same time. That’s probably more happy coincidence than serendipity, but, in either case, it’s a welcome sign of working with someone who is sympatico: that not exactly rare but always welcome thing of having a working relationship with a kindred spirit.
Whether it’s serendipity or a happy coincidence or good old fashioned brilliance in casting that Nicole Kidman and Damian Lewis got to work together in Queen of the Desert, the more revealed about this film and this team of actors, the more anxious we become to see it all played out on screen. Reading Vogue’s article on Nicole Kidman revealed bits about her approach to her art that bear an uncanny resemblance to another fine actor we all know and love, Damian Lewis. Nicole Kidman’s spread in Vogue replete with pics from Queen of the Desert whets my appetite even more.