Thursday, March 6, 2008

Impressions of The Other Boleyn Girl

Meh. That was my feeling upon seeing The Other Boleyn Girl last night. Didn’t hate it, but certainly didn’t love it, either. I felt justified in my opinion after reading Sarah Johnson’s review at Reading the Past. I purposely didn’t read her review until after seeing the film and found myself nodding my head as I read. I’m not going to repeat what you can read there; what follows here are some additional reactions of my own.

It was little things about the film that bugged me, more than any of the liberties taken with the history. The convention of viewing characters through open doors and windows, for example. I understood that the art director was trying to capture the look of contemporary paintings—and in one instance I remember catching my breath because the scene reminded me so strongly of a Dutch painting or a portrait by Clouet—but by the end of the film, the constant framing of distant characters annoyed me to no end.

Then there were the frequent exterior shots of the castles—the Boleyn home, Hampton Court, the Tower of London. I don’t know when the Boleyn estate was built, but it bothered me that it looked so OLD in the film; Hampton Court, also. (I’m assuming it was Hampton Court, although I remember HC being built of red brick and the castle in the movie was gray. I don’t think it was Windsor—anyone know which castle they used?) Much rebuilding and renovating took place on older residences during the sixteenth century. I’d expect these places to look brand-spanking new, not old and crumbly. And what was it with the clouds moving at rapid speed during these shots? Such a clichéd way of showing the passage of time or the headlong course to disaster.

The music left me cold. Instead of using period music, the movie featured a score that must have been written especially for it. Again, it was overly dramatic, filled with a sense of impending doom. There was one scene of a dance at court that featured period music, but I don’t remember any others. I think proper music would have added greatly to the atmosphere and lessened the “we-know-what’s-gonna-happen-and-you-the-characters-don’t” feel to the score.

I disagree that Anne would view being sent to the French court as punishment. Ignoring the fact that she and Mary spent time at the French court long before they ever met Henry, I hardly doubt Anne would have equated being there as “exile.” The French court was noted for its elegance and sophistication; English noblewomen went there to acquire a certain refinement and were often loath to return home to the uncouth English counterpart when their stint was up. And of course, I’ll have to chalk Anne’s unflattering comments about François I as being exaggerations intended to flatter Henry by comparison.

Ah, Henry. I’m sorry, but as much as I love Eric Bana, I don’t think he fit the part. Henry had red-golden (or at least sandy) hair and was often compared to a lion. I just couldn’t accept dark and brooding Bana as the King. I also found it amusing how often he ran about the palace unattended, and seriously doubt his mistress would spend the entire night in his rooms, given that the ceremony of the King’s lever would occur at first light. And speaking of ridiculous scenes, there’s no way on earth Mary would ride off in the middle of the night, ALONE on horseback, to escape her brother and sister.

Okay, so was there anything I liked? The costumes, of course, were gorgeous, the acting solid. Nothing outrageously anachronistic destroyed the unfolding of the story; the motivations, if somewhat exaggerated, were believable. The film did a good job portraying women’s roles and the importance of begetting male heirs. And I was glad the sex scenes faded to black and didn’t become the focus of the movie. All in all, it was an enjoyable experience, but just reinforced for me the risks involved in fictionalizing historical personages. Someone in the comment trail on Sarah’s blog linked to an article by Philippa Gregory herself on the film. Well worth a read.


Jennifer Hendren said...


I saw it the other day. While I didn't think it was the greatest movie ever, I did enjoy it.

Funny you mention the two shots that bugged me the most -- the characters viewed through windows and the repeated building shots with the clouds rolling behind them. LOL. Interesting choices.

Anyway, one thing about that movie... Not sure if it's a reflection of the movie itself or my time spent on the forum, but I immediately questioned how accurate the whole thing was. Went home and googled it. (g) What slightly annoyed me was that I was rooting for Mary to get back with the king. :P I can't explain it, but he was so tender with her...and then he just turned totally psycho. Another reason it seemed off. But nevertheless, I wanted things to work out for her though I knew they ultimately wouldn't. Silly, that. (g)


Jennifer Hendren said...

Oh..meant to ask if you knew you had wonky html code throughout your post?

Julianne Douglas said...

Hey, Jen, good to see you here! {s}

As I was watching the movie, I was wondering how different the experience would be for someone who knew nothing of the history compared to someone who did. I knew enough of Anne's story that the movie wasn't at all suspenseful for me. The only "surprise" was the incest thing. I knew she had been accused of witchcraft and adultery, but the incest charge had escaped me. Though an abhorrent concept, I thought it clever how the scriptwriters (I can't remember if Gregory did it in the book) motivated it by her desperation to hide her miscarriage. I agree with you that the king's portrayal wasn't consistent. Mary was lucky in the long run that she didn't get back together with him!

Walking back to my car, I was listening to the conversation of some women behind me. They were all excited because they concluded that the child Mary (Catherine's daughter) was Mary Queen of Scots. "No, no, no!" I wanted to interrupt. But I figured they wouldn't appreciate a history lesson in the middle of a parking lot at 11 pm, so I kept walking. I'm just glad to see people interested in the time period, and if they go home and google things to learn more, all the better!

P.S. What do you mean about wonky html code? When I view the blog on my computer, everything looks fine.

Anyone else having this problem?

Sarah said...

Julianne, it's interesting to read your comments! I hadn't noticed their continual framing of distant characters (if I ever see the film again, like when it makes it to TV, I'll watch for that).

It's been a while since I read TOBG, the novel, so I don't remember if Gregory omitted the fact that both Anne and Mary spent time at the French court, but I agree that Anne wouldn't likely have seen time spent there as exile. The timing on Anne's motivation (re: the incest thing) was a little weird - you can't tell how much time passed in the film, but it seemed like she was trying to get pregnant again immediately after she lost the baby (physically possible in some cases, I suppose, but unlikely). I suppose the scriptwriters would say she was simply desperate...

That's amusing about the Mary Queen of Scots story in the parking lot!

I'm seeing some of that wonky code as well - I'm using IE 6.0, and these tags appear at the beginning of every paragraph: !--[if !supportEmptyParas]--

Julianne Douglas said...

Dear Sarah,

Good point about the timing of the incest. It did follow directly on her miscarriage. Maybe they were trying to show how desperate she was? I did see it coming, though. There were hints throughout the movie, for example when George made that strange comment early on to his new wife that she should be jealous that both his sisters would soon be at court.

And the framing thing wasn't just for distant characters. They would often frame closeups of the characters. Some of the effects were neat; for example, they would transition between scenes by making it seem the viewer was walking into another room or passing by a window. But by the end of the movie I found it a bit tiresome and definitely overused.

Thanks for commenting and for your own review! I hope lots of readers went to check it out.

cindy said...

sorry to comment on such an old post, but i love ann boleyn and both my friend and i (also a fan) were very disappointed with the film. the story moved too fast, and if you didn't know the history, you'd be confused, i'd think.

also, the changing of history did not sit well with me. and what was with the soft focus love making. ack. i'm not sad i saw it, but i wish they had been done better.