Fim Design and narrative : Elizabeth

My last post sounds more complex than it is. Theory always does, and theory comes for me in hindsight often as I look back at my films and wonder ‘what was going in my mind when I made those decisions’. ?
The central focus in Elizabeth was Power. The PLOT conflict was between Elizabeth and her Catholic detractors, in their struggle for Power. The PSYCHOLOGICAL conflict was between Elizabeth’s desire be in love and therefore retain innocence, as against the need to have power to survive, and therefore to be ruthless. The MYTHIC conflict was about whether it was possible to be Divine and Human at the same time. Focusing on interpretations of Virginity as a fact, or as a political/mythic statement. Virginity was explored not only as a political need, but as a Mythic idea of Elizabeth’s desire to be (perhaps) a representation of the Virgin Mary.
The Design of the film is complex as it covers lighting, costumes, colors, camera choreography and the architectural design of the film.
The Architectural design of the film was telling another story, almost contradictory to Elizabeth’s rise to Power. By constantly showing Elizabeth as a tiny individual in relationship to the immense stone architecture, it contradicted her rise to Power, often through the very high angle shots of the stone arches in the places that I shot in. The attempt was to introduce the idea that their is greater Power operating beyond the human conflict going on in the plot. I called it Destiny but it could go by many other names. All the antagonists and the protagonists were ultimately equal in Death and subject to their Destiny.
The Costume design showed Elizabeth’s gradual denial of her sexuality through the elaborateness of her costumes – which became more and more ostentatious even as they covered more and more of her skin and body, while all the time she was struggling to stay the young princess in love.
The Make up design too. For example in the last shot of the film where Elizabeth had her face painted in white, was about the loss of individuality through merging into the mythic icon that Elizabeth had become/ turned herself into. But at the same time emerged as one of the most powerful individuals in History. What was she at the end then ? A Myth, an Individual ? an Icon ? Or all at the same time ?. And was this of her own volition, or was she, like everyone else, just a product of the forces of Destiny ?
Constant contradiction and search for possibilities in every aspect.

22 thoughts on “Fim Design and narrative : Elizabeth

  1. How come reading these interpretations brings me to a sense of …
    Ah …
    whre are the words???

  2. isn’t every aspect of life about contradiction? There’s always a contradiction within self…the self that we actually are & the self we strive to be. Contradiction in love – the person we fall in love with & the image we fall for….I feel the beauty would lie in accepting contradiction, rather than trying to find the reasoning behind…

  3. ok…I like this post…rather well-explained insight into what you were thinking at the time…(though I suspect some of the most brilliant bits would have just hit you in moments of ‘inspiration’)

  4. Constant contradiction and search for possibilities keep coming until the mind decides what it wants to do and not after that.

  5. Very nicely put!
    …and in the best perspective!
    While reading I got a feeling that you can write a book on aforesaid subject. It would really be an educative experience for people who take cinema in academic form.
    Also, time and again when a film maker looks at the body of his work of past…the most important question is what was going on in his mind at that time?
    Many of film makers that I personally know, do not do that, or despite doing – ignore the very fact stopping the journey of creativity, expression and communication.
    Really one amongst the best posts in this blog.
    This post brings to my memory mise-en-scene, symbols and motifs, staging, director’s perspective…those passionate conversations that I miss in film institutes days.
    Strangely, In the end of post…somehow I remember iconic…Michael Jackson…the individual…What has he become in the end…? but for future generations he will be a myth and all at the same time.

  6. Hi Shekhar,
    You are a good director no doubt but you are my favourite actor till date. What I envy about you guys in the creative field is that while mortals like me end up just being reactive to the various stimulus thrown at us every moment you guys actually know how to ignore that and do something creative instead.

  7. lovely elaboration that now reads less complex – it’s such elaborations, revealing the depth & layers behind the cinematic expression, that make viewing films on [original] DVD (rather than commercial theatres) more cherishable.
    So, what is the cinematic expression of “suggestions for harmony” in the Film Design, within these myriad conflicts in the context of this real example? Or is that intentionally left as a big question mark, as in this post, to be interpreted by the audience?
    Sorry, not bright enough to fully comprehend even an elaboration of something that is not as complex as it sounds…

  8. clearly written. Did not see the movie (sorry!)- hence cannot comment on it. Some of the comments posted by u are interesting…
    is it possible to be divine and human? Well- divinity is so close -if only we can take an inward step, we’ll see it right there.
    Are we all ruled by forces of destiny? or should we say karmic forces? Or is there a way out…..

  9. Every piece of art is a God’s creation, where the director or the artist becomes just a medium. Now,
    some times this piece of art comes out great and sometimes it sucks. As Francis Ford Capola once said “If a film did work ,No one sees the mistakes, and if it doesn’t, then everyone look for mistakes in it.”
    So the lesson is…again “Geeta” here, “Do your best” , and don’t worry about it’s result.
    Up to this point, every artist tries to do that…But as an artist or as a human, we forget to detach our selves from our own piece of work, once it’s completed. I think that sense of detachment is very essential not just for an artist but also for anyone. However, to reach that particular state, one has to be enlightened.
    Constant contradictions are essential for you Shekhar because you are a true artist. If you don’t live in contradictions then, how are you going to show this complex life on celluloid? Contradictions become the integral part of us, only when we are truly involved in something. That involvement does show up in every artist’s work (If they were really involved in that particular piece of work).

  10. A marvelous movie … every single dimension ( script , screenplay , direction , cast , performances , lighting , sets , costumes etc) had spellbinding effect on viewers … prior to ‘Elizabeth’, you had created two more such magic viz. ‘Masoom’ & ‘Bandit Queen’…
    ‘Masoom’ was an statement .. to an otherwise blind & thoughtless hypocritical society ( in name of tradition & culture ) . It went on to completely erase the belief / fixation in mass’ minds which till then prevailed over centuries that it is the child born out of wedlock that is ‘haraami’ and the focal reason of turmoil in an otherwise happy family .. this one movie completely changed the psyche of a nation and taught it that ‘such’ child also is merely a child ( innocent , craving for love , attention & security like any other child ) , the real culprits are actually the people succumbing to a moment of passion without realizing it’s disastrous outcome … this single movie ‘cured’ an otherwise heartless n crude society on the issue & taught God alone knows how many to be responsible in their acts … Hats off Shekhar … it still remains my all time favorite …
    ‘Bandit Queen’ was no different . This went on to project the truth of events in one’s life with complete honesty , & also depicted how sequence of hardships n circumstances can alter/determine the path of life of an individual … it also questioned society on the sanctity / validity of marriage , on need of love & on it’s women’s right to dignity & to live … the movie changed the outlook of entire country which until then had seen the protagonist of the story as a ‘dacait’ in her real life … the release of this movie converted an antagonist into a protagonist in minds of even the lower most sections , villagers et al , who identified with the protagonist thru common chord of pain & of being the ‘victim’ in hands of destiny … the realization had resulted into mass hysteria culminating into empowerment of the lady thru sending her to the corridors of central power wing of country’s political circuit …
    The power of this medium … the creations of a visionary director & it’s impact on the times & society … very few have this power of influencing their era to bring about positive change , against odds … I feel , you are one among those few gifted ones …
    Elizabeth was the third such marvel from you , to me , majorly for benefiting India thru statement of an Indian finally arriving the centre of Hollywood – the place of Rich , Famous & intellectuals ; and of course , also for the creative process / thoughts as described in your above write up … the conflicts , the regality , the might vs. mightier , said & unsaid / text & sub – text , the story detailing power equations & human nature , reliving history , revoking of those times in perfection … so so much … everything so well brought out thru control of creative deptts. … ‘Design’.. ?? Yeah , that thing .. how was it done ? Was it tedious , means going down to jotting down every minuscule detail on paper ? Was everything pre-planned or a few things impromptu too ? How involving was that ? How much time & effort it required ? Mere hearsay weaving with few concoctions , or meticulous research on the subject ? Ohhh , the ‘design’ itself is so intriguing & thought provoking … was this project already designed / created before you were taken on board for direction or it was developed under your supervision ? The entire creative / look was the vision of the director i.e. you or it was laid down to you by the producing studio ? What were the designs of your previous projects which went on to touch billions of hearts changing many lives ? .. so many questions sprint my mind … conflict of said & unsaid … said , what you mentioned in your text … unsaid , the answers I look for to the questions I pose … shall the unsaid , rather untold in your text reach us ..? Shall we get a chance to ‘enter’ the mystique of a creative mind & it’s processes / executions ; & get to understand /appreciate marvel creating marvels ?.. mightier & created mights , in harmony or in constant conflict ?? Would be such a joy to unravel …

  11. This is the magic of the internet!
    Members of the public can interact directly with the director of some of their favourite movies. 🙂

  12. Dear Mr Shapur,
    First of all, I find it both interesting and tasteful how you explore the subject of divinity in your films about Queen Elizabeth !, and as you have mentioned the Virgin Mary to be one possible archetype for her divine Alter Ego I would like to direct your attention, if I may, to the myth of Pallas Athena, The Virgin Goddess Parthenos, whose father Zeus swallowed her mother, the mercurian wisdom goddess Metis, upon which she derived her entire orignation and legitimacy solely from her father. Moreover Athena is the devine protector to shrewd and audacious seafaring characters such as Odysseus and of heroes such as Perseus. The latter she sent out to kill Gorgo who had violated her temple and whose head she would subsequently wear on her Aegis for protection. Considering that in the Renaissance the owl of Minerva/Athena was flying again and the mythical keypoints of the Athena myth I am inclined to consider Elizabeth an emmanation of the goddess Athena, which, if accepted as a premise, would inevitably lead to the question of what a myth really IS (perhaps a musical structure? a matrix for an event?) and thus how time itself is fundamentally organized.
    In sharing these thoughts I sincerely hope I have not unconciously yielded to the general internet self-absorbtion by assuming you might be interested – a precaution that generally inclines me to refrain from any utterance through this medium.
    Gwendolin Kirchhoff

  13. Dear mr. Kapur,
    I am a Dutch student and for my writing exam I have to write a perceptive text, as we call it. As subject, I have chosen to write about the pro’s and con’s of an Indian director, who has experience with Bollywood films for an English historical fiction film.
    Though, I find myself facing a lack of information on the internet.
    So that’s why I would like to ask you a few questions in person.
    First of all, I was wondering why the producers have chosen to work with you as a director and why you have chosen to accept their proposition. Second of all I would like to know if there were any other directors they had in mind for this project and who those might be. Third of all, and this one’s more for my elucidation, which I have to write as well, I wanted to ask you why you prefer symbolism, music and bodylanguage over dialogue, which explicitly comes forward in your movies. Don’t you think that this way of making things clear is a bit vague for people with less knowledge of history?
    That’s about all, I hope you’ll find time to answer my questions.
    I have become a big admirer of your work and I wish you good luck with any future projects.
    Yours sincerely,
    Irene Overtoom

  14. I am watching this movie in my English class as a tribute to that time period, moving into Shakespeare after. I so far am enjoying this movie. The only reason I Googled your name and reached your site, was because at the begining of the movie I saw a brown-person’s name… lol… but it is expected from me… myself being brown… 🙂
    Cool article by the way…

  15. A wonderful film. In your commentary on the DVD you said the opening sequence of 3 protestants being burnt at the stake is “done with real people in there” and “everybody asked if there were any special effects” …”There were none”.

    I’m curious to know how the shot was done? It is very effective.

  16. There was some smoke added initially, but as the fire built it was real and the people inside the fire were in covered in fireproof suits .. All the camera wires caught fire though as it was on the top of the flames ..

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