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Elizabeth (1998) – DVD Review



Written by: Michael Hirst
Directed by: Shekhar Kapur
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Christopher Eccleston, Richard Attenborough


  • Audio commentary with Director Kapur
  • “The Making of Elizabeth”
  • “Elizabeth” featurette
  • Theatrical teaser and trailer
  • Cast and crew bios
  • Photo gallery

Released by: Polygram USA Video
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: No.

My Advice: Own It.

[ad#longpost]Elizabeth (Blanchett) is a young woman with very few cares. When we first meet her she’s dancing merrily in a field and sought after by her love, Robert Dudley (Fiennes). But that’s all about to change. Queen Mary Tudor (Kathy Burke) is ill and halfway demented with that illness–Elizabeth is next in line for the throne. Wait, it gets worse. Elizabeth is a Protestant whereas England is ruled by Catholics. The poor girl has to grow up quickly and assume the throne, and then make sure she doesn’t get kicked out before she can make a difference in her homeland.

As a film alone, Elizabeth is a wonder. More serious in tone than its sister film of that same year, Shakespeare in Love, I’ve always maintained that the two films serve each other very well. Both involve not only Joseph Fiennes as a doomed lover, and Geoffrey Rush showing his range, both dramatic and comedic–but also it gives us Queen Elizabeth I, as a character, at the beginning and end of her reign. It’s because I had seen Elizabeth than when Judi Dench, in Shakespeare, delivers the line about how she knows something about being a woman in a man’s position–the line resonated for me with even more power than it would have on its own. Not to say that both films don’t stand on their own, they most certainly do.

Cate Blanchett freaking is Elizabeth I

On repeat viewings of Elizabeth, none of the power is lost. Rather, this allows one to focus on the excellence in both acting and writing, and the directorial prowess of Kapur. Although the DVD would be valuable on its own, from the standpoint of having the film to watch and study, it is Kapur’s running commentary that reveal his entire vision for the film: why camera shots were done the way they were, why angles were chosen the way they were, why sets were designed and picked as they were. This all shows that…well, frankly, the man is freaking brilliant. Most people only picked up consciously on 10% of what he was trying to put across in his work, but it’s all the stuff under the hood that put this film over the top. And speaking of putting something over the top, the commentary alone moves this disc from one that’s really nice to have if you like the movie, to a must-have, especially for those involved for films, and most especially for budding directors. If you want to understand how to envision a film from start to finish, and have everything mean something, even on the most subtle level–then run, do not walk, to purchase this DVD and listen to Kapur give his spiel.


Certainly there’s a featurette–yet another one of those annoying fifteen minute jobs–with actors telling you things you already know about their characters, if you’ve seen the film. And of course, of those fifteen minutes, ten of them appear to be snippets of footage from the film, most of which don’t really need to be viewed out of context, thank you very much. There is a Making Of documentary, which does shed some light, so all is not completely lost when it comes to other features, but it is Kapur’s commentary that makes the entire disc worthwhile.

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