I did not always believe in the magic of cinema. Sitting in one of a thousand identical cinemas, looking at the waves of unoccupied seats, can make you feel more alone than sitting at home with a bad stream. But sometimes the atmosphere of a cinema absorbs you in a shared experience that gives full dignity to the director’s intentions.
The Favourite follows two cousins vying for the attention of Queen Anne in a bid for power. Director Yorgos Lanthimos convinces the audience of the innocent intentions of the film, allowing humour to drive the first act until the underlying loneliness of manipulation takes over.
The film was perfect to watch in a sold out cinema, allowing the audience’s reaction to amplify the range of emotions the production explored. Although seeded with comedy throughout, the challenging relationships in the film often lulled the audience into reserved contemplation. The pathos of the film was mirrored in Lanthimos’ vivid use of colour. The warm yellows that flooded the most intimate of scenes matched the close atmosphere of The Duke of York’s cinema. Lanthimos’ tender yellows were cut with violent red and blue, emphasising the key element of the film – war. The primary colours suggest more of the opposition between cousins Abigail and Sarah than between the two polictical parties they represent. The audience is drawn into the relationships of the characters through voyeuristic fish eye shots and warm colours. Then this softness is cut dramatically with primary colours and intense music to remind us that tenderness is not the force at work in this film.
The most striking aspect of the film was the agency the female characters possessed. Far from pandering to a ‘strong independent woman’ archetype, Lanthimos creates dimensional female characters who are capable of great cruelty and kindness. Possessing all the vindictiveness, wit and vulnerability of Shakespeare’s Iago, the three female leads leave the men of the film redundant. The males are only become useful in relation to the female’s power games. This is made explicit in a scene where the cousin, Abigail, gives a hand job to a member of parliament while monologuing her next scheme. The carnal ecstasy of the parliamentarian next to the cool, collected female typifies how gender relations operate in the film.
The film’s blend of wit and introspection created the perfect tone to open CINECITY. Hopefully humour, friendly, receptive crowds and thought provoking cinema will continue to be the defining atmosphere of the festival.