[VoxSpace Selects] The Favourite : A Power Play Of Epic Proportions

The Favourite- A Dissection Of Female Gender Politics

The Favourite is a dramatic satire about Queen Anne’s regime in her latter days. It was made by Yorgos Lanthimos, from a script written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. The film had a long gestation period during its development phase. The film was written as early as 1998, but it had to go through a lot of re-writes and directors to finally end up where it does.

Queen Anne’s Downfall

The film mainly centres in on the very emotionally unstable Queen Anne during war-time. When we are introduced to her, we can see that she is completely under the spell of Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), who is using her power to get political favours for her husband. Into this situation walks in the seemingly harmless Abigail (Emma Stone), who is anything but that.

Abigail, who happens to be a far-off cousin of Sarah is hired by her and in the process gets close to Queen Anne. This small oversight by Sarah costs her everything, as Abigail uncovers their secret relationship and takes advantage of it. Abigail makes herself available to Queen Anne and takes over Sarah’s position behind the queen (pun intended).

Flipping The Dynamics Of A Patriarchy

The film deftly jumps between political intrigue and absurdist comedy. While the film is talking about the future of the nation, it almost never leaves the palace. Yorgos wants to show that the huge decisions that have irrevocable consequences are made due to petty insignificant reasons. This not only portrays the political climate then but, also mirrors ours now. The men in the film are almost treated as the periphery, because even if they wanted something, the only way to get it would be through the women- flipping the gender dynamics of patriarchy.

Technically Sound Period Drama

The interesting thing about the film is, even though it is extremely accurate to the period it depicts, it never goes for the typical look and feel of a period piece. Most of the film is shot in wide or extreme wide lenses to exaggerate the absurdity of the situation. Robbie Ryan, the DP, also uses fish-eye lenses to eventuate the myopic view of the world that these characters possess. Yorgos also goes for a very naturalistic lighting pattern. There are no huge source-lights creating the patterns. The lighting is kept as minimal as possible, to not distract away from the characters. The production design and costume design are just picture perfect in a way that I haven’t seen in recent times.

A True Heir To Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon

The film reminded me a lot of Stanley Kubrick’s seminal masterpiece Barry Lyndon in many ways. Like in Barry Lyndon, the film-maker tries to keep the shot composition centred with practical lighting. The acting is also directed in a way to make them almost indecipherable. Yorgos has been using this style of acting techniques since his first film. This technique never allows the viewer to really empathize with them, but rather it creates a distance between the viewer and the character. This distance allows us to examine a situation objectively, without being influenced by the performances. Another advantage it provides is that it allows us to look at the bigger picture than to get lost in the moment.

Finally, I would like to conclude that The Favourite is a visual treat and an emotional rollercoaster, filled with awe-inspiring feats of acting. Especially from the always glowing Olivia Coleman who won an Oscar for her performance in this film. I believe it deserved a lot more accolades than it got. It would’ve been the favourite if not for a certain green book.