Lanthimos’ Period Pieces
Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite very oddly throws out the white rabbit regarding period pieces. It rediscovers the form with a humorous novice spirit, a show for three-star actresses full of wry observations and witty symbolic stories about society. Covered with comedy, it is a commentary on the power of screenplay, about history only raw material as a jumping-off point in exploring timeless yet contemporary dynamics. For example, it represents how inequality breeds vicious competition. The second example is how intimacy plays behind the scenes and impacts the lives of ordinary people.
However, it becomes a sophisticated meditation on war, history, love, class, and power. One of the first things the audience saw was a wide screenshot of the visuals. The film uses a wide fisheye lens which always sees the character in such a space. According to Lanthimos, a large room can depict a lonely character. The visuals express the fear and alienation of the characters of the upper society. As the camera traverses the long halls, the ultra-wide-angle emphasizes that getting around the palace is a long journey. Emptiness and openness surround all the characters to court as if the characters were in an actual theater.
An Aristocratic Interaction
The Favourite considers history as a white rabbit interaction between misdating and attention. Set in the early 1700s in Queen Anne’s court, Lanthimos takes on British costume drama with an extremely wide-angle lens. It provides a spacious interior, decorated with sizeable ornate furniture and rugs. The fishbowl cage display also observes the audience from a bewildering distance. What is revealed is not a very rigid version of history. Instead, the film uses history as a reflection.
It also serves as a platform for discussion about two women competing for the good of their Queen in a brutal competition. As well as having specifics about gender relations and modern politics, the cynicism in all its depraved behavior becomes a target that provides a lasting contrast between depraved behavior and sublime settings. The film puts three influential women at the center of the costume drama. On the other hand, men often only play a peripheral role, becoming eye candy, comic relief, or fanservice.
Queen Anne survives a siege of physical disintegration between confusion, insecurity, and emotional trauma. An open wound forged her leg, and uric acid attacked her leg. In general, she spends most of her time in her private room. A gold-plated cage containing 17 rabbits accompanied her. Each rabbit also replaces the same number of children she loses by dying young or dying.
On the other hand, Sarah Churchill’s presence unites the Queen, the Duchess of Marlborough, whose outspoken honesty becomes a trusted advisor. Regardless, she used their closeness for her political gain as a voice in the Queen’s ear. In other words, she acted as if she was the Queen herself. When Sarah signed an important document about the outcome of the French war, she wanted to continue the war and paid her by doubling the land tax. As a result, it opposed members of Parliament who hoped to sign a peace treaty.
The British aristocracy houses a black and white backdrop of marble floors, high-class women, and a Queen dressed in black and white. Part of the palace blends into the luxurious surroundings; however, it is terrible that the characters seem to run away. The claustrophobic effect envelops the entire room and, at the same time, makes the audience feel that the space is confining the characters. Constantly, the camera becomes the center of the visual approach smoothly. It is almost like the character itself has many pans. However, the pan on most lenses is so blurry that the audience can see the entire room moving around. Lanthimos makes the audience aware of a world constantly pressing such characters through the style of camera moves.
For the audience, there is no way out. The ultra-wide shot visually, in addition, supports The Favourite white rabbit by making spaces seem odd. It is always fickle and unreasonable. The absurdity of the lens that the director applies to the period drama feels right. Therefore, the audience can only imagine that the life of a wealthy palace noble is crazy. The characters have no relationship with each other’s time. However, schemes and betrayals lead to a decadent life of luxury. The characters will spend time on things that are never useful to anyone else, like obsessing over a duck, stepping on or torturing a rabbit, or masturbating a stick. The subversion power of the film makes the audience less tense in understanding the details of the period.
Love is War
The Favourite became a film about an erotic white rabbit triangle. Two parties compete with each other for the love of a third party. Despite the audience’s sympathy initially with Abigail, her duplicity is not limited. Her motivation has limits when she seeks a safe position. She tries to free herself from having to return to a life of prostitution. On the other hand, she is a character who cannot love. Unlike Sarah or Anne, both are detached from each other’s machinations. It seems both as well have a genuine affection between them. For the most part, the rivalry between Sarah and Abigail became a series of countermoves in eliminating the opposition. It became the Queen’s one-retainer until the final third, when a victor seemed to emerge. The line has then blurred between the two.
If not at all, it shifts audience support as well. Unpleasant history and dialogue question the certainty of a winner. Abigail does not just play Sarah’s estranged cousin. She also plays a former woman whose reckless father risks her dignity. While fumbling out of the carriage, Abigail arrived at court to plead with Sarah. She asks if Sarah can give her a job and become a low-level maid. Abigail’s flattery and charm went fast and far. When she swiftly advanced from sleeping with the crowd of crooked maids to having her bedroom, she slyly earned the Queen’s trust. In a specific scene, she spied on what happened that night between Sarah and Anne, who are having a sexually intimate relationship. In essence, Sarah issues a deadly, jealous, and violent threat that does not prevent her opponent from showing her naked self.
For Lanthimos, it is not that Sarah, Anne, and Abigail represent the representation of female characters. What he is trying to do is portray them as human. The male gaze is ubiquitous in cinema. However, many filmmakers portray women as girlfriends or homemakers. In such a case, his contribution is that he only tries to show them as terrible, beautiful, and complex as humans in general. The battle between Abigail, the Duchess of Marlborough, and Sarah, results in such a world of urges to side with the oppressed. As Abigail revealed more and more of her cold-blooded ruthlessness, she as well replaced Sarah as the favorite. Audiences are not only tempted to think that at least not much has changed.
However, in reality, Abigail was significantly worse than her predecessor. As she said to the audience, she is only for herself. In essence, she always sides with herself. For such reasons, Sarah as well opposes an absolute monarchy. They are essential in establishing a constitutional monarchy and extending parliamentary powers. In the white rabbit of The Favourite, she will not be able to escape and will always love her Queen but loves her country more. On the other hand, there is a limitation. Sarah’s downfall is that she overplays her hand in pursuing her strategic vision for the country. She exaggerates her control over the Queen. Apart from forgetting that she is still the only favorite in the end, she relies on the Queen’s help in maintaining her strength. Abigail does not care how her country is indirectly affected by her machinations.
Queen and Abigail
There are so many intentional mistakes that the characters in the film make. They always imagine that going up for food will set them free. However, The Favourite‘s most significant idea is to leave audiences with a profoundly unequal social system. The ultimate power is concentrated in the hands of the few. In conclusion, everyone was trapped. Abigail crushes one of Anne’s pet rabbits under her heel in the last sequence. It was no coincidence that Anne’s rabbits were as black and white as court ladies. Through the haze of a worsening illness, Anne feels disgusted at the true nature of such an impostor.
She asserts her power to remind Abigail who her master is. However, being an employer is also not fun. There is not a single character in the film that is sadder than the Queen throughout the film. By becoming a profound dark truth, human nature cannot address or avenge the actual cause of people’s frustration. Everyone takes their problems out on someone worse off. After all, what the Queen did to Abigail is the same as what Abigail did to the rabbit. Such unhappiness flows from the top to the bottom of society. Everyone who is dissatisfied ruthlessly punishes those under him until everyone is miserable for life.
The Favourite briefly shows how the white rabbit ego is a facade as dangerous as it is inappropriate. However, it does not necessarily want to ridicule them. All ego of the characters in the film is too much. They do terrible things but are full of remorse in getting what they believe they deserve. Being a timeless theme, it exemplifies the power that exists in the modern era, as did eighteenth-century English nobility. In general, royalty representation is sublime and sublime. However, Lanthimos aims to humiliate the character for the sake of humility. The audience’s view of royalty is melting, not just being a superior person anymore.
However, Lanthimos tries to show that they are also human. Lanthimos is famous for his beautiful films. His cinematography is memorable and has a very dark comedy tone. The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer become much more real despite being less digestible for some people. Nonetheless, the humorous yet gloomy tone of his films continues. He finally gets recognition for his works. The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards, and Olivia Colman won Best Actress. Despite being based on historical lore, the film unfolds what audiences know to tell an impactful story about human themes. Lanthimos tries to tell a story that goes beyond historical facts.