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Requiem for a Queen

sadface
Caught the fifth episode of the new season of THE TUDORS this evening.

Given my fascination with history and my love of historical fiction, it's probably no surprise to most of the regulars here to know that I've watched this Showtime series from the beginning, albeit with decidedly mixed feelings.

The show has great costumes, great sets, great visuals overall. The storytelling has been rather uneven, though... the first season in particular was weak, I thought... and they do fudge about with history some... though I give them props for presenting the period in considerably more detail than any previous dramatization has done, with a lot of complexity and a rich cast of secondary players. You know how I love that stuff.

The thing I mostly DON'T like is the lead. Henry VIII is the heart of the series, of course, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers has played him start to finish as the Shouting Studmuffin, with nary an inch of depth or understanding. Worst Henry ever. (See Keith Michell's portrayal in the classic BBC miniseries if you'd like a look at how it should be done).

If you can manage to ignore Rhys-Meyers, however, there has been some wonderful acting in the series, especially by the actresses playing Henry's wives. Natalie Dormer was especially outstanding in her portrayal of Anne Boleyn, perhaps my favorite Anne of all the actresses who have played the part over the years. The actresses who played Katherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour, and Anne of Cleves were also very good.

And in this evening's epiosde, the beautiful and talented Tamzin Merchant's wonderful portrayal as the doomed teenage queen Katheryn Howard came to its bloody conclusion on the headsman's block, in a scene as gut-wrenching and heart-breaking as Anne Boleyn's execution a couple of seasons back. Tamzin took on a daunting task with this role. Katheryn was the youngest of Henry's queens, only fifteen by some accounts (others say slightly older), and while far from innocent, she was naive, unsophisticated, frivilous, giggly.. a kitten frolicking in a tiger cage, oblivious to the claws around her. Tamzin caught all that wonderfully, I thought... both in the character's introduction last season, and in the first few episodes of this seasons... sexy as hell in the bedroom scenes, a playful child with her friends and ladies, awkward and ill at ease at court.

This week, however, the mood changed abruptly, when all the sunlight went away, and Katheryn and her lovers and friends were swallowed by darkness. Tamzin did all that beautifully as well, showing us Kathryn's fear and desperation, and, finally, her courage as she faced the axe. My favorite scene, though, was a completely silent one, where Tamzin dances alone in a darkened abbey while her friends and lovers are being tortured and beheaded elsewhere, and we intercut between the two. Exquisite.

Next week THE TUDORS continues as they bring in Henry's sixth and final queen, Catherine Parr. Unfortunately, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers will still be on hand, but I expect I will watch anyway, to see how the show comes out (I do wish the show was going to continue and gives us the reigns of Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth. Why call it THE TUDORS if the only Tudor we get is Henry, badly portrayed?) But no matter how good the actress portraying Catherine Parr turns out to be, I know that Tamzin's beauty, grace, and talent will be missed.

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neurona_muerta
May. 11th, 2010 04:10 am (UTC)
Well, I was mostly agreeing with OP's view on Anne Boleyn, and merely pointing and agreeing (for fun) that Studmuffin!Henry really was eye candy for women. Men are really lucky in that aspect with this show, since most women on it are really pretty (even Catherine of Aragon, who is mostly portrayed ugly in a lot of Tudor movies, looks good). Female watchers have their own with Studmuffin and his best friend.

Of course I know how Henry VIII looked like and at which state he was at the end of his life(at least what some of his comtemporary figures said about him in their testimonies and for what I have studied on my degree) and upon seeing who was going to portray him, I realized that this show's Henry was going to be very sui generis. Of course they weren't going to make JRM look morbidly fat, and by so they were changing the historical and important facts about him.

While I can be disagreeing historically about that fact (and some others) am I superficial for agreeing that I like (talking about physical traits, not portrayal) JRM as Henry in the Tudors? Yes, then so I am. I have eyes too :s

I agree with your views on historical fiction (and how him still being Studmuffin!Henry when he marries Katheryn distorts the whole story between them. I can't blame Katheryn Howard for having an affair with Culpepper! At all!) and I have always been very nitpicky with historic adaptations to cinema, and it is not that I forgive the poetic licence Studmuffin!Henry represents. As History lover, I certainly can't. As a woman... well, I enjoy my dose of eyecandy.
grrm
May. 11th, 2010 04:41 am (UTC)
Have you seen the old BBC miniseries, with Keith Michell? He was a young, good-looking guy when he played the role, and appeared as such in the early episodes, but he donned more and more makeup as the series progressed, to reflect Henry's deterioration.

Makeup was much more primitive in those days... but even so, I thought it worked brilliantly.

And his Henry has vastly more depth and humanity than Rhys-Meyers's, even beneath all those layers of makeup.

Edited at 2010-05-11 04:46 am (UTC)
neurona_muerta
May. 11th, 2010 05:59 am (UTC)
No, I guess I am guilty of still not having done so :( But I certainly will, whenever I have the chance of finding them here. Thanks for your recommendation.

I enjoyed watching Robert Shaw in "A man for all seasons" in his role of Henry VIII, that said, the king was younger when the issue with Thomas More happened.

That being said, it seems to me (and that is only my opinion) that this tendency of portraying Studmuffin!Henry is more frequent in cinema now than it was before, as can be seen in the "The Other Boleyn Girl", where King Henry is played by Eric Bana, who is another example of Studmuffiness :s

I haven't had the chance of watching all the classics regarding this History period (I can barely remember watching Anne of the Thousand Days and Richard Burton's role as Henry when I was a young girl and had no idea who King Henry was) but I am trying to do so, since I am very interested in those historical figures.

Anyway, thank you again for your recommendation.
grrm
May. 11th, 2010 06:06 am (UTC)
THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL was not a good film, but there is at least some justification for portraying Henry as a Studmuffin in that one. He was still relatively young, slim, and fit at the time of his marriage to Anne Boleyn.

It's a different situation when you get to Anne of Cleves, Katheryn Howard, and Catherine Parr.

ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS is a much better film than THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL. And for an entirely different take on Henry, find yourself a copy of THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII, starring Charles Laughton.
neurona_muerta
May. 11th, 2010 07:35 pm (UTC)
Uhm yes, that is true. He was 45 when he excecuted Anne, and barely months before he was unhorsed while jousting and this is when he started to gain weight, or so is said. So yes, there is some justification for that, though I wonder what would be done if his later years were to be taken to the big screen nowadays.

ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS is a much better film than THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL

I completely agree with this, both the movie and the book. As I have already said, "The Other Boleyn Girl" is to the Tudor era what Twilight is to vampires.

Thanks again for recommending me that, I will try to find a copy of The Private Life of Henry VIII.

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