- Released Internationally on 05/09/08
- Released in Malta by KRS on 10/09/08
In a nutshell
A biopic about the 18th century English aristocrat, Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, who was a fashion icon and popular public figure in her time, but who also led quite a scandalous life.
Why we’re hyped
This is a British as it gets. Every so often we’re treated to lavish period films about, made by and starring British people, and they remain unique and special in their own way. And although this Duchess may not be as renowned as, say, Elizabeth, her story seems to be just as entertaining. Comparisons to the late Princess Diana are also sure to spring to mind, because besides the many obvious similarities, Georgiana’s maiden surname was Spencer, and Diana was a descendant of the same family.
Who’s in it?
Keira Knightley plays the title character, and this could very well be her career-defining role. We’ve seen her shine in period pieces before, and this time the spotlight will be very much on her. Another very talented Brit, Ralph Fiennes, plays William Cavendish, who marries the Duchess, and Charlotte Rampling plays Lady Spencer, her mum. The script was based on the biography by Amanda Foreman, and relative newcomer Saul Dibb directs.
Past events usually retain their interest either if they were major milestones that changed the course of history, or if the issues at hand are still relevant today. Important as she may have been in her time, the Duchess of Devonshire was hardly a landmark figure in history, and I for one had never heard of her before this film was in the pipeline. But from the word go, her story is captivating, and very relevant to our times. If this account is anything to go by, than despite superficial changes in protocol and conduct, affairs of the heart have remained very much the same through the centuries, and painful family decisions have had to be taken, much like what society is facing today.
Keira Knightley makes the role of the duchess her own, and is fortunate not to have to impersonate anyone since we don’t have much footage of Georgiana around nowadays. She breathes a lot of life, and the full range of emotions into her character, and will probably win audiences over just like the duchess did in her lifetime. Georgiana is presented as a fun-loving, strong-minded woman despite the restraints imposed upon her by the era in which she lived, and her popularity is entirely believable. But back home, her marriage is in ruins, and step by step we see her stumble through an emotional rollercoaster, before being faced with heart-wrenching decisions.
Not Voldemort, but close
Driving her to despair is her humourless husband the Duke, played with grim determination by Ralph Fiennes, who ironically gets many of the film’s best lines thanks to his deadpan delivery. His relationship with Georgiana, and with the third wheel in their marriage, Lady Foster, is compelling to watch. One can only hope that certain conversations that are heard here died along with our ancestors, but with all the striking similarities to Lady Diana’s life, one has to wonder what is said in the corridors of Buckingham Palace.
Technically, the film is wonderful, with locations, costumes, hairstyles, lighting and music as lavish as one would expect from such a rich period piece. The acting is convincing throughout, aided by a tight and unwavering screenplay that enthrals us with the ten years that shaped the duchess’ life. It’s a good story, well told.
http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount_vantage/theduchess/ (High-res QuickTime)