How to capture a King…

The Other Boleyn Girl

The Other Boleyn Girl is a faithful and condensed film adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s engrossing novel about Mary and Anne Boleyn, the sisters whose fateful and tragic involvement in King Henry VIII, not only changed the course of the British monarchy, but also established a Tudor dynasty.

In the wake of similar films and series about this fascinating and intriguing period of English history, namely the raunchy TV series The Tudors and the most recent sequel to Elizabeth, Shekhar Kapur’s lavish Elizabeth, the Golden Age, The Other Boleyn Girl, may not appear as spectacular but was certainly as entertaining for anyone who has a keen interest in the historical events of the sixteenth century. The equally talented Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman take the roles of sisters Mary and Anne Boleyn respectively. Johansson reprising her doleful yet stoical performance similar to her earlier role as Vermeer’s muse in Girl with a Pearl Earring, while Portman is splendidly belligerent and regal as Anne Boleyn, capturing the self-important air of an ambitious Queen, reminiscent of her portrayal of the young Queen Amidala in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.

While the intrigues of the British monarchy some four hundred years ago, may not appeal to everyone’s taste, first time film director Justin Chadwick swiftly moulds The Other Boleyn Girl into a fast-paced, costume drama, filled with ruthless Dukes, and unforgiving nobility, who centre their power-hungry plans on King Henry VIII, a despotic and fickle monarch, whose attentions dangerously shift from his Queen, to his mistresses and who eventually become notoriously famous for, discarding, wedding and even beheading many of his six wives. Monogamy was never his strongest feature.

King Henry VIII, such a mythical figure in the annuls of British history has been portrayed by many onscreen, so it is with obvious difficulty that the Australian actor, Eric Bana had in capturing the essence of this potent King’s spoilt and almost tyrannical character. His efforts do not go unnoticed, however, Bana fails to reflect the truly conflicted nature of Henry as the complex ruler he was. While the novel of The Other Boleyn Girl fills one with all the intricate details of his splendid court and the complex relations within the Boleyn family, whereby woman were used as pawns to further a family’s status in the Kingdom, the film is given some grounding by a strong performance by Kristin Scott Thomas as the sisters mother, Lady Elizabeth, who is savagely critical of the manipulations of her brother, the sisters’ uncle, the influential Duke of Norfolk.

With the intelligent casting of such rising stars as Johansson and Portman, the film will hopefully appeal to a younger generation of viewers, in an effort to make history and royal courtship so infinitely attractive. After all, both sisters were barely out of their teens when their affairs with King Henry began, and they like everyone else fell prey to the whims of a supremely powerful figure, the equivalent to a modern day tyrant.

Sexy and lush menage a trois

Sexy and lush menage a trois

Eventually both sisters capture the King’s affections and lose them again, with disastrous consequences for one, and fortunate, yet ironic consequences for the other. Both the film and the novel of The Other Boleyn Girl are worth investing some effort in, demonstrating that while society has advanced considerably from the 1500s, we, as human beings are still driven by such forces as greed, ambition, lust and betrayal and unfortunately, even nowadays, tyrants still linger unhindered in forgotten regions of the world.

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