Queen of the Desert Movie info:
Queen of the Desert is a 2015 epic biographical drama film written and directed by Werner Herzog and is based on the life of British traveller, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer and political officer Gertrude Bell.
Initial release: 2015 (USA)
Director: Werner Herzog.
Running time: 2h 8m.
Budget: 36 million USD.
Music composed by: Klaus Badelt.
Here is the kind of film that you can hardly believe is the work of Werner Herzog who has written and directed it. It is grown-up, respectable and historical, perfectly competently made, lots of accents and period dressing-up … and just the tiniest bit dull.
Queen of the Desert is an expansive and solemn biopic of Gertrude Bell, played by Nicole Kidman as a cousin to the doughty Englishwoman-abroad role she had in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia. Bell was the British traveller, scholar and orientalist of the early 20th century who, like TE Lawrence, took a patrician interest in the Arab peoples who were yearning to throw off the yoke of the Ottoman Empire. She made a remarkable contribution to creating the kingdoms and nation states of what is now known as the Middle East. The sheikhs were perhaps intended to be the equivalent of British India’s complaisant maharajahs. That was before oil was discovered.
Bell is thought of as a female Lawrence of Arabia, and there can be doubt that Herzog had David Lean’s great picture somewhere in his mind as he made this. The orchestral score even appears to quote from Maurice Jarre’s undulating Lawrence theme. But where is the eroticism, the ambiguity and the danger of Lawrence’s O’Toole? I would have thought that Herzog would plunge, chaotically and subversively, into the erotic charge of desert adventure. But no. Bell commands opaque respect from the Bedouins and incites a doomed, suppressed passion in British men: an unfortunate repeat pattern of disaster which the movie leaves tactfully unexamined.
Headstrong, beautiful Bell is at first described in highly abusive and ungallant terms by the British army types who resent her interference in diplomatic affairs. But Herzog soon shows us that her beauty is unconventional only in that she is tall. Nicole Kidman makes some of the other characters look as small as Hobbits. Bored to tears on the family estate, Gertrude persuades her papa to send her out to foreign climes and here her beauty and brilliance capture the heart of raffish junior British diplomat Henry Cadogan, played by James Franco. This actor certainly puts the “cad” in Cadogan, but his very odd English accent and cheesy ingratiating grin makes him look and sound like some lost member of the Monkees. Bell’s father does not approve of this man and the liaison does not end well.