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THE QUEEN

Tradition Vs. Image
Throughout THE QUEEN, there is constant dramatic tension between a fading world of tradition, pomp and protocol and a brave new world of emotion, style and informality. This contrast also informed every aspect of the film's look as director Stephen Frears and his creative team forged two distinct worlds through cinematography and design. "The film is really a chamber piece but you're also dealing with enormously powerful and enormously rich figures,” explains the director.

"We're used to seeing these characters only in the most ceremonial of situations but the film is really about their human side – so we had to find the right balance. I especially enjoyed the scenes that show what their lives are really like, as when the Royals are all sitting around watching television.”

Frears worked closely with Affonso Beato, the Brazilian cinematographer best known for his collaborations with Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar including ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER and LIVE FLESH. Beato's brief from Frears was simple: "Stephen decided to film the scenes of the Royal Family with 35mm and the scenes with Blair with Super 16. It fits the film: 35mm is more composed, static and has more grandeur while hand-held Super 16 has more energy and texture. We wanted a big contrast between these two worlds, from a serene, stately world to a modern, frenetic world.”

Posing one of the biggest challenges for Beato was the tight time frame of the film. "The story takes place over one week but we shot over two months. I could control the interiors but I couldn't control the exteriors which were prone to change,” he explains. "It was tough making sure all the exteriors had a consistent tone and I would have loved more very sunny days but when you're working in Britain, that's always a problem.”

Beato also had to contend with another intriguing element -- knowing that the film's fictional sequences would eventually be spliced together with hand-picked archival footage from 1997. Frears wanted to use documentary footage to add to the immediacy and heighten the sense of an allpervasive media in THE QUEEN. Helping him with this was Adam Curtis. Best known for his riveting and provocative documentaries, Curtis hit the international headlines in 2005 when his controversial examination of Al Qaeda and the war on terror, THE POWER OF NIGHTMARES: THE RISE OF THE POLITICS OF FEAR, screened as an Official Selection at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival to acclaim. THE QUEEN marks the third time, following "The Deal” and MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS that Curtis has collaborated on a Frears film.

"We were keen to convey the idea that although Diana is dead, her presence is there all the time,” says Frears of using archive footage. "There aren't many scenes where the television isn't on. Adam Curtis brings his own unique sensibility to the archive sections but also he has incredible knowledge of where to find the good footage. We needed some very familiar shots, shots that we are all aware of in Britain, such as Cherie opening the door in her nightie the day after the election, but we also wanted to surprise the audience with some of the images that Adam has found. There are two or three sequences when the archive is blended together so that you get a fairly seamless understanding of events.”

The contrast between the stultified atmosphere of the royal world and the relaxed charm of the Blairs is even more apparent in the design and locations for the film. Production designer Alan Macdonald, whose credits include John Maybury's THE JACKET and LOVE IS THE DEVIL, was charged with the challenge of taking audiences into the backrooms of governments and palaces. Macdonald began with highly detailed research, watching endless television footage of the Royal Family and the Blairs to get a better sense of his subjects and especially their surround

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