“The Favourite” is a film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos in 2018.
Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are remarkable. The photography, the dialogues, the costumes are of rare perfection and serve this cruel and sad tale.
We are at the beginning of the 18th century, in England. War may be raging with France, but the political situation by no means affects Queen Anne (played by Olivia Colman) who has physical and mental health issues. She takes refuge in a very childish fantasy world, populated by ducks, rabbits and above all, her favorite Sarah Churchill (played by Rachel Weisz).
The evaporated and weak Queen Anne lives under the sway of the strong and intelligent Sarah, who embodies the power behind the power. This already unstable balance is disturbed by the unexpected arrival of Sarah’s poor cousin, Abigail (played by Emma Stone).
The two cousins will fight to the death to obtain the Queen’s favor. Who will win?
These three women, embarked on a cruel race for power, are survivors. Queen Anne, who has lost 17 children, clings to Sarah so as not to sink into an ocean of emotional loneliness. Sarah, a fine politician who has the stature of a head of State but not the legitimacy, knows that her position as favourite is precarious and therefore tries to consolidate her interests before everything collapses. Abigail, who is a penniless noble woman, sold by her father and raped, sees the opportunity to reclaim her class advantages.
Their relations are marked by betrayal, manipulation and cruelty.
The costumes – magnificent – all in black and white, evoke the chessboard, its strategy and its weakest piece (the king who is here a queen but one wonders if this king-queen is that weak in the movie). These black and white costumes also evoke Manichaeism, but as each female character is adorned with both colors, their readability in terms of good and evil becomes blurred.
The insane and cruel exercise of power is played out in this purely female trio as men are relegated to the background, occupied by futile entertainment.
Yorgos Lanthimos plays with History, taking inspiration from the real Queen Anne and her two favourites, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Malborough and Abigail Hill, Baroness Masham. As the most powerful woman in England after Queen Anne, Sarah Churchill was renowned for her frankness when speaking to the Queen, she nevertheless ruled the latter’s daily life, dominating her completely. Seeing her favor fading in favor of Abigail Hill, Sarah Churchill started rumors about a steamy affair about Abigail and the Queen. In 1711, Sarah’s disgrace was total and she would never be reconciled with Queen Anne, who died in 1714.
Yorgos Lanthimos tells a cruel and human fable from these historical facts and it is absolutely delightful to watch.
(On the pictures below, no ancient costume for me but a silhouette which reminds me of a scene of pigeon shooting featuring Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone).
December 10, 2021
Burberry jacket – Monoprix jumper – Helmut Lang leggings – Stuart Weitzman boots – Lanvin purse – Chanel sunglasses – Galeries Lafayette scarf