(The UK and European premiere of "Mary Queen Of Scots" will be on Monday, December 10th, 2018 at 'Cineworld Cinema', Leicester Square, London, 7pm). UK release on January 18th, 2019.
(Release Info New York City schedule; December 5th, 2018, The Paris Theatre)
"Mary Queen Of Scots"
A Queen who lost three kingdoms. A wife who lost three husbands. A woman who lost her head.
'Mary Queen Of Scots' (Saoirse Ronan) spends her childhood in France and is meant to become also 'Queen Of France'. However, her ailing husband dies and the young widow returns alone to Scotland, a country devastated by war. Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie) has just become 'Queen Of England', for Mary she's like a twin sister to whom she can open her heart. Mary weds again and gives birth to an heir to the thrown. Her second husband, Lord Darnley (Jack Lowden), proves to be a weakling. When Mary finds the love of her life, 'The Earl Of Bothwell' (Martin Compston), she has Darnley murdered and marries Bothwell. Horrified by this deed and the blind passion that motivated it, both the nobles and the people of Scotland spurn her. To avert a bloody battle, Mary is compelled to give up her beloved Bothwell. In desperate straits, she turns to Elizabeth I for help. In response, 'The Queen Of England' imprisons her. After 19 years spent in a golden cage, Mary finds release at last; Elizabeth I sends her to 'The Block'.
From the day she was born, Mary Stuart’s hand in marriage was coveted with such rough wooing that her mother sent the five-year-old 'Queen Of Scotland' to France as the betrothed of Dauphin François (Adrian Lester). Mary and François grew up almost like siblings at 'The Luxurious French Court' and were married when Mary was 15. Elizabeth I was crowned 'Queen Of England' at the same time. Mary reaches out to her cousin Elizabeth I, as if she were a trusted twin sister to whom she can open her heart. And yet, urged on by 'King Henry II Of France' (Kadiff Kirwan), she also lays claim to 'The English Throne'. Shortly there after, upon the death of Henry II, François and Mary become 'King And Queen Of France'. Mary’s reign as 'Queen Of France' comes to an abrupt end after only a year, upon the death of the sickly François at the young age of 16. Having lost her claim to 'The French Throne', 18-year-old Mary decides to return to Scotland. She accepts her fate with courage and determination. Life in Scotland is very different from what she has been accustomed to; the climate is rough and the customs are coarse in a country beset by poverty. In addition, Mary is confronted with the extremely explosive situation of a nation divided between 'Protestants' and 'Catholics'.
As a Catholic, she faces the hostility not only of 'The Protestant Leader' John Knox (David Tennant) but also of her brother 'Earl Of Moray' (James McArdle) and she's reviled by her people as an unmarried French whore. She finds consolation and support in the four companions of her childhood, 'The Four Marys', in Rizzio (Ismael Cruz), 'The Puppeteer', who becomes her political confidant and advisor, and in 'The Earl Of Bothwell', the only Scotsman, it seems, to respect her. But Mary is a survivor. The royal blood in her veins lends her the strength to brave her opponents. She wants to unite her people; tolerance is her highest priority. So much so, that she even hazards the blatant hatred of her adversaries. It soon becomes clear that Mary must have a husband. Even Elizabeth I takes action by recommending her own lover, a suggestion indignantly rebuffed by Mary. In fact, having fallen in love with another Englishman, handsome Lord Darnley, she proudly defies Elizabeth I and her brother Moray by rashly deciding to get married. Ambitious, zealously anti-Protestant, refusing to be reined in by 'The Queen', Darnley rapidly proves to be a grave menace to the already precariously balanced relationship between 'Catholics' and 'Protestants'.
Whatever faith Mary, now many months pregnant, may still have had in Darnley evaporates when he allies himself with Moray and has her confidant Rizzio brutally murdered before her very eyes. Mary is devastated. Skilfully masking her feelings, she successfully persuades Darnley that she has forgiven him but turns her back on him, the moment she has him under control. With a heavy heart, she entrusts her son to one of 'The Four Marys', to protect him from Darnley’s wayward behaviour. In the meantime, even Moray has become wary of him and warns Mary that he must be kept in line. Learning that Bothwell has been seriously injured, Mary realizes that the word friendship alone no longer applies to her feelings for 'The Loyal Earl'. The inevitability of her love for him sends her spiralling into despair and she too falls ill. She senses that she will pay for her passion with her life. Bothwell and Mary have recovered; they stand face-to-face at long last. Mary succumbs to her feelings; after the first night spent with Bothwell, she throws all precaution to the winds and chooses to remain with him.
At the baptism of her child, she's quivering with excitement because Elizabeth I has announced that she will be present. The time has come for the sisters to embrace. They will meet in person for the very first time. But, once again, Mary's hopes are dashed. Elizabeth I has sent a deputy with the gift of a golden baptismal font. Despite her profound disappointment and rage, Mary still feels bound to Elizabeth I by unfathomable ties. Darnley, now suffering from syphilis, does not attend the baptism. In his stead, Bothwell is there at the table next to Mary. Moray and Bothwell make plans to eliminate Darnley. Mary does not get involved but neither does she interfere with their plans. Shortly afterwards, the house in which Darnley is being cared for goes up in flames. Mary, already pregnant with Bothwell's child, struggles to simulate shock and dismay. Only a few weeks pass before she decides to marry Bothwell. Aghast at this deed driven by blind passion, the nobles and the people turn against her. The people demand that she punish Bothwell; even Elizabeth urges her to do so.
Mary cannot bring herself to take action against him. Her love for Bothwell is too great; she's too happy with him. Moray abandons her; he and his entourage depart for Italy, far removed from the impending catastrophe of a civil war. Bothwell has recruited an army but it's ranks are daily dwindling. Royal jewellery is melted down to pay the soldiers. On the morning of the battle, the hopelessness of Mary’s situation is patent. Vastly outnumbered by 'The Army Of The Lords', she's asked to surrender and dismiss Bothwell. She has no choice; there's no other way out. She sends Bothwell away. While gazing after him, the blood runs down her between her legs. In utter despair, Mary appeals to Elizabeth I for help. 'The Queen Of England' responds by having her imprisoned, ostensibly for murdering Darnley, but actually in order to eliminate a legitimate contender to 'The English Throne'. After 19 years in a golden cage Mary finds salvation on 'The Block'.
Mary's youth in France is important to understand the luxury of the surroundings she grew up in. It shows the contrast to Scotland, the poor, war-torn country that she voluntarily chose to return to, after her first husband died, not because she's homesick but because she's their legitimate 'Queen'. She feels she has the right to marry the man of her choice and to mete out less punishment than called upon by custom. Above all, there so one objective that she pursues with bewildering tenacity, she wants to unite 'The English Crown' and 'Scottish Crown', effectively uniting England with Scotland, 'Catholics' with 'Protestants', and ultimately herself with her cousin Elizabeth I So intensely does Mary embrace this extremely personal idea of unification that she's blinded to political and social realities and incapable of considering the consequences of her actions. The uncompromising pursuit of her inner goals, however, don’t seem to lead to a more fulfilled life or greater freedom. Instead her freedom is increasingly curtailed and she's more and more isolated. Her inner drives prove fatal to her goals. Socially ostracized, ever more lonely, we see Mary in solitude, straying about in empty halls and courtyards. Crazed she gallops across fields, compelled to follow the same path, desperately seeking a way out. The smaller Mary's world becomes in her confinement, the more it revolves only around her.
Here, a third stylistic device comes into play; Mary's thoughts, moods and emotions begin to acquire shape through the imaginary presence of her 'counterpart', the absent Elizabeth. Mary interiorizes 'Queen Elizabeth' and makes her part of herself to such an extent that one might even say she has become her alter ego. The letters she writes and never sends to Elizabeth are now soliloquies and the omnipresent portrait of 'The English Queen' in her chambers turn into mirrors. Although the real Elizabeth never accepted any of Mary's repeated invitations to visit Scotland and despite 'The English Queen’s' attempt to bridle Mary by choosing a husband for her, Mary persists in her vision of Elizabeth as a kindred soul, who empathizes with her state of mind. The puppet show, both as a product of Mary's imagination and as a skit staged for the public by her confidant Rizzio, adds an additional insight into Mary’s perception of her relationship with Elizabeth. The puppets are moved by only one puppeteer and are incapable of being anything but enemies. Never does Mary's antagonist react directly, never do we learn whether Mary’s opinion is shared by her English rival. And we realize that the end is inevitable, to Mary being executed makes sense emotionally; there's no other way out. In the final scene, she turns to the camera and addresses words of farewell to her cousin Elizabeth.
Mary and Elizabeth relationship is crucial to the film. There's no separate, self-contained Elizabeth in the film; she's essentially part of Mary, almost like her shadow. In that respect she's an inner figure, especially since Mary never saw her. She has only portraits and reports and formal diplomatic relations. Both women suffered an exceptional fate. Elizabeth went directly from prison to 'Queen Of England'. Mary went from 'Queen Of Scots', and briefly 'Queen Of France', to prison. Both have a strong will and a horde of nobles hovering around them and trying to tell them how to rule. Mary is the more old-fashioned queen but the more modern woman; Elizabeth is the manager and unable to bear children. They both knew that there's a woman on the same island, struggling with similar problems. They're related and at the same time rivals since Mary, influenced by her French relatives, has laid claim to the English crown as well. Their relationship is always very ambiguous and Elizabeth is the most important person in Mary's life. The presence of Elizabeth and Mary's longing for her sister’s real presence are vital to the narrative of the film and it’s embodied in the combination of Mary’s inner voice and the puppet shows. You can interpret their relationship classically; two Queens who are very close, who are in conflict and never meet.
Her life takes a dramatic turn in a very short time. The film shows the beginning and end of her life. But also psychologically as Mary's inner struggle with her own being and who she's. That's very important, so it's a constant struggle to figure out how to do that without having to retell the whole story. The film focuses on those two dramatic, eventful years in which she falls in love with Darnley and precipitously marries him, witnesses her confidant Rizzio being murdered before her eyes, does nothing about the conspiracy against Darnley and finally marries Bothwell. It's like a volcano, with one explosion after the other, and it's just too much to weave into one storyline. Dramaturgically, therefore, the film treats the events like earthquakes that start out being barely perceptible and then suddenly erupt. Along with Mary, we're suddenly faced with unexpected situations. Having lost everything, including the crown, she can no longer face Elizabeth as an equal in rivalry, so that life has become meaningless. The end of 'Mary Queen Of Scots' once again reveals the extraordinary nature of this historical figure; even in death, she remains true to her inner logic and her own will.
"Mary Queen Of Scots" instantly conjures opulent costumes, bloody battles and passionate love affairs. Mary Stuart’s story exerts an enduring fascination. She has been the subject of countless theatrical adaptations; she figures in series that immerse us in the life and times of her age. Her story has been interpreted time and time again; it has been examined from untold perspectives. It tells of a 'Scottish Catholic Queen' who considers herself the rightful 'Queen Of England' and is executed at the age of 42 by 'The Protestant Queen Of England' after years of political intrigue and imprisonment. The contradictory judgements and reactions provoked by the drama of Mary's life in her own time are still the subject of speculation today. Crucial to the film is the inner life of this historical figure. Mary intuitively struck a chord in us as someone we can relate to not in terms of her blue blood but because of her personality. It's not about a specific culture or country. She's a European heroine caught between 'Catholic France' and 'Protestant Scotland'. We're presented with the psychogram of a woman torn by ambivalence and driven by passion, a psychological treatment that reads Mary as a modern figure.
The film gives us an intimate insight into a woman who does not conform, who has an iron will and steadfastly refuses to bow to conventions and expectations, a woman who does not yield to social pressure but answers only to herself and her own inner laws. She actively embraces the responsibility entrusted to her as 'Queen', boldly making decisions and taking action in a male-dominated world. With indomitable, emancipatory will, she confronts the powerful lords around her, never doubting the strength of her authority as a woman. Following the advice received from her stepfather, Henry II, in 'The Gardens Of The French Court', she tries not to succumb to her feminine instincts and her friendliness. With her deep, guttural voice, she leaves no doubt about how she perceives her role as 'Queen'. She's not obsessed by power; on the contrary, she's almost naïve and childlike in the unremitting pursuit of her ideals. Mary is neither a saintly heroine motivated by her Catholic faith to do good, nor is she an ambitious Queen obsessed with power. She's shown as an independent spirit, who obeys her own inner drives. Mary Stuart is a woman whose true life experience is compressed into the briefest of moments, for instead of being able to act out an entire life, she said confined to the ardent space of a single passion.
Operating on several levels and employing several means, the film concentrates first and foremost on Mary's physical presence. In long takes, we're given time to read and understand the expressions on her face; defiant, stubborn, flushed with emotion, but always intense, open and communicative. We see her wildly galloping through a raw, forbidding landscape, horse and rider fused into one. On another level deserted landscapes suddenly appear, mirroring Mary's state of mind. The camera moves at eye level through foggy, bleak scenery redolent with surrealist symbolism. A single, dirt-spattered horse, the edge of the ocean, convoluted paths through labyrinthine undergrowth and fade-ins of complete blackness echo 'The Queen’s' moods and emotions. The genre hasn't really moved forward in any way over the past 30 years. The film generates a cinematographic feel for the era, which means, for instance, using lots of natural light, light candles or daylight, or gentle camera work with a handheld camera shooting at eye level. A preindustrial narrative style where we watch the characters and rest on their faces just a little bit longer to capture the full effect.
We see traits in Mary and that aren't terribly en vogue anymore today. She’s looking for something unconditional. We live in an age where the focus is on getting a return on your investments. That doesn't interest Mary; she throws herself into life with a passion. That's a quality that has been overshadowed in an age of totally connected, postmodern individuals. The archaic nature of being human is important in developing her character. It's not surprising that we hear less about Mary today than about her adversary Elizabeth. Elizabeth is like a modern manager who has sacrificed her personal life for the greater good because of her love of the people. Mary figured prominently in 19th-century literature and music but she has never really come into her own in contemporary cinema. There are a number of TV series about Elizabeth in which Mary plays a supporting part. She represents values that we need to defend because they're fundamental human qualities: profound, unconditional commitment instead of concentrating on the quantifiable results of everything we do.