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Details At A Glance
||Main Menu Audio
Featurette - Cast And Crew Interviews (7:13)
Featurette - The Making Of Elizabeth (11:00)
Featurette - Behind The Scenes (5:42)
Cast & Crew
||Language Selection then Menu
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
||English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
German (Dolby Digital 5.1)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
Like a lot of historical figures from this period in
time, Queen Elizabeth I's history is hard to verify simply because she
was an editor of her own legend. This is something the booklet provided
with Elizabeth warns us of early on in the proceedings. The
film begins in England during the middle of the 15th Century, a time that
doubtlessly makes a lot of people glad that most Western societies now
keep their churches and state separate when they look at its events. King
Henry VIII has just died and left his eldest daughter, Mary (Kathy Burke),
to reign over England in his place. In keeping with the kingdom's combined
religious prejudices, Mary steps up a long-running campaign of repression
and persecution against the Protestants. As the opening credits state,
Mary is childless and close to death, and the greatest fear of the Catholic
hierachy is the succession of her Protestant half-sister, Elizabeth. Said
sister, Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett), having been declared illegitimate
just a couple of years after birth, is in hiding. Soon, however, Queen
Mary's army comes and takes her to the Tower Of London. While there, she
exercises her ability to resist interrogation and is eventually freed.
Soon, Queen Mary is dead, and the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth faces the
difficulties of ruling an England in religious chaos, and dealing with
calls for her to marry potential suitors such as Lord Robert Dudley (Joseph
Fiennes) for political reasons. She is also escorted by her personal
bodyguard and assassin, Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush),
who carries out most of her dirty work in the shadows. According to the
titles inserted before the ending credits, Walsingham was one of the few
people who remained loyal to the Queen throughout her long reign.
In dramatic terms, this film follows a similar tone
to Braveheart, in that it explores the heroic and beautiful
side of its main character, but tries hard to avoid her negatives. This,
however, does not work with Queen Elizabeth because she is a product of
her times (ever wonder where the expression "Elizabethean attitudes" came
from?), times when religious persecution was not only accepted, but also
positively encouraged. However, most of the sequences in the film do not
do a very good job of telling a story, and seem to be small snippets of
footage thrown together with only consideration for sequential order. From
the word go, the viewer is pretty much lost without knowing the story which
it is trying to tell. Given that this story concerns a relatively unknown
historical figure, the truth of whose life can only be guessed at, this
is a very poor move on the part of the filmmakers. Compared to similar
films based on historical figures around whom legends are built, such as
Braveheart, this film is a rather unsatisfying peek back
into the past. However, the cinematography and acting from most of the
major players goes a long way to make up for this.
Well, I've mentioned before that Columbia's theatrical
exhibits contain photographic quality to an inversely proportional degree
with the entertainment value of the film. It appears that PolyGram have
decided to follow suit in this arena. The picture stays razor-sharp and
clearly focused from start to finish, although there's a moment here and
there in which the subject of the shot is blurred. Given that these subjects
are typically shot through a window or a fog, however, there's reason to
believe that these shots weren't meant to be crystal clear. Remi Adefarasin's
photography is definitely the best thing going for this DVD, because the
story tends to move at an awfully sluggish pace. The film is presented
at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, complete with the beauty of 16x9 enhancement.
I tend to think that maybe a wider ratio would have suited the film better,
but I'll let that slide for now.
This disc is in the RSDL
format, with the layer change occuring at 78:57.
At least Polygram had the decency to make this dual-layered instead of
dual-sided this time around. The layer change, however, comes right in
the middle of an action (a Catholic preist raising a letter stamp), rather
than between the two scenes that interchange near this point. This is not
an acceptable position as there are plenty of other places in which such
a transition could be made without any interruption to the film. Although
it is much better than putting it halfway through one of Queen Elizabeth's
rather interesting statements. Still, having the pause just a few seconds
earlier would have been so much better.
The audio transfer on this disc is one of the best I
have ever heard. Two languages are presented - English and German, both
encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 with what sounds like extreme faithfulness
to the original audio portion of the theatrical exhibition. The disc defaults
to English, which is the track that I listened to because I am still having
trouble with German. Audio sync on this disc does not appear to be a problem
in English, which is just as well because you can imagine how it'd look
if a British period-drama suffered such problems. The dialogue was easy
to follow at most times, although most of the male voices suffer a little
in this area because the sound mix certainly favours high-pitched sounds.
Whispered or muttered dialogue also presents something of a problem at
times in the film, especially during the final half hour.
David Hirschfelder's score music is very appropriate
to the story depicted on screen, but I think that's the best that can be
said for it. It does not appear to have much relevance to the characters
depicted, and it often becomes just a little too obtrusive into the dialogue.
It also sounds too modern to match the theme of the film, with heavy use
of a synthesiser in the lower registers of some cues taking much from the
overall effect. Some of the music seemed too dull for the action it accompanied,
while other parts seemed to be too powerful for the slow, reflective moments
of the film which they were placed with. There is definitely too much general
use of a choir for my liking, as well, as the vocals soon become tiresome.
The extras are 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0
sound. Clips from the film are presented within said extras at 1.78:1,
also with 16x9 enhancement. However, the extras are very ordinary, even
by the standards of a viewer who would happily forgo extras on discs such
as this in favour of better formatting.
The menu is themed around the film, presented in what
appears to be full-screen. I have severe doubts that it is 16x9 enhanced,
but that's a minor complaint compared to something else I found. The chapter
selection menu on my copy of the disc will not move past chapter six, the
scene in which Elizabeth and Mary are face to face for the last time. For
some reason, whenever the "next" arrow is selected, the film begins playing
at the start of this chapter. Navigation on this menu is impossible past
this point. Given that there are scenes well past this point that I'd rather
select from this menu, this is patently unacceptable.
Three featurettes are on this disc - Cast And Crew
Interviews, The Making Of Elizabeth, and Behind The Scenes.
These extras stretch for approximately twenty-five minutes in total. They
are pretty much the same sort of extras that are used to comprise documentary-style
advertisements that have been broadcast on television for much worthier
films (The Phantom Menace comes to mind).
As is typical with PolyGram DVDs, a booklet is also
provided, although this one is a monumentally hard read with small printing
and too many pages to facilitate easy removal from the case.
R4 vs R1
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
The region 1 version of this disc misses out on;
Although the Region 4 extras are practically worthless,
and the Director's Commentary would really help this film to make more
sense through an explanation of the actual storyline used, I see no reason
to recommend one over the other, as the film certainly does not justify
the cost of sourcing overseas in my view.
Cast & Crew Interviews
Elizabeth, while a competent piece of historical
drama, suffers from the malady of having much better examples out there.
It is, however, presented on an excellent DVD.
The video quality is excellent, and shows off the
photography quite admirably.
The audio quality is almost reference quality except
for the way in which lower-pitched dialogue suffers from a very upper-register
The extras may as well not be there.
© Dean McIntosh
January 14, 2000
||Grundig GDV 100 D
||Panasonic 51cm and 68 cm models, via RCA inputs. Sony
90 cm model, via RCA inputs.
||Panasonic S-J1500D front speakers, Sharp CP-303A back
speakers, Sony SS-CN120 centre speaker, Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer