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The Duchess

  • 2008-12-17
  • By Justinas Vainilavicius
Director: Saul Dibb

"The Duchess" is a must see movie for history lovers and aesthetes. If you are one of those statistical going-to-the-cinema-to-forget-the-crisis types, it is also perfect for you. Set in the Georgian era, it just cannot be depressing. I guess boring does not matter now.  The Georgian era, which lasted through the 18th century, is synonymous with an aristocratic lifestyle, wigged gentlemen and corseted ladies in silks, enjoying their lustrous life to the fullest extent.

That is what I expected when going to see Saul Dibb's "The Duchess," and that is exactly what I got.
 The 18th century celebrity socialite Georgiana Cavendish (Keira Knightley), Duchess of Devonshire, would be considered a pop icon nowadays. She was deeply engaged in political life, an unusual thing for a woman of that time. This and her love life, beauty, sense of fashion and passion for gambling made her well known. However, her extravagant persona is quite bland in the film, where she looks more of a desperate housewife.
 The movie is based on the bestselling Amanda Foreman book, and the marketing strategy included drawing parallels between Duchess Georgiana and one of her descendents, Princess Diana, both from the same Spencer family. Indeed, similarities are uncanny.

Costumes are definitely the strongest part of this film, corresponding to the aura of Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette," awarded an Oscar for best costumes. This might be no coincidence, as Duchess Georgiana was sometimes called a British version of a French queen.
The depiction of Georgiana's political engagement in the film is understated, to the great historians' disappointment. The Duchess was an active supporter of the Whigs, a political group campaigning for broader liberties for a larger part of society. Georgiana is said to have exchanged kisses for the votes.
This, if included in the script, would have shown the other, more charismatic image of this woman in contrast to the film's fragile-flower one. Her involvement in politics is restricted to the romantic feelings towards Charles Gray, rising political star. 

Besides costumes and interiors, Ralph Fiennes makes this film worth seeing. His interpretation of William Cavendish looks so realistic that it creates an illusion the Duke himself just stepped out from a time travel machine.

 Keira Knightley, the hero of "The Duchess," has already established a reputation as a perfect actress for old-time English ladies. Knightley's performance in this film is brilliant 's very emotional and deep. Her charm and ability to develop a complicated character with all its strengths and weaknesses helped a lot to stay interested in an otherwise quite slow movie.
 
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