Magazine article Variety

Queen of the Desert

Magazine article Variety

Queen of the Desert

Article excerpt

Queen of the Desert

director: Werner Herzog

starring: Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Robert Pattinson

The world is full of men content to spend their lives within a few miles of where they were born, men who will love one woman, learn one language and go to their graves hardly having dreamed at all. These are not the men about whom Werner Herzog makes movies, although it took until age 72 for the chronicler of such bombastic souls as "Aguirre" and "Fitzcarraldo" to deem a woman worthy of one of his mighty portraits. Better late than never, and though Nicole Kidman is hardly the female Klaus Kinski, in the formidable character epic "Queen of the Desert," she conveys with quiet determination what Kinski never could: the kind of conviction that changes the world.

Leaning more on romance than one might suppose to capture such an independent spirit as Gertrude Lowthian Bell, whose self-directed explorations among and dealings with the Middle East's many conflicting tribes informed how the former Ottoman Empire eventually came to be divided, "Queen of the Desert" looks and feels big enough for megaplex play, yet lacks the central dramatic conflict that drove "The English Patient" and "Lawrence of Arabia" to such mainstream success.

Her self-evident intelligence not remotely sated by her studies at Oxford in the late 19th century, Bell immediately begs her father to send her "anywhere," so that she might escape stodgy old England and experience the world. He obliges, shipping her off to the Tehran embassy, where an uncle is employed.

Far more at ease in this exotic outpost, Bell allows herself to be politely seduced by embassy secretary Henry Cadogan (James Franco, looking tired but charming). Their courtship is the stuff of Merchant Ivory movies, complete with an old Macedonian coin split in two by which the lovers can remember one another, though Bell's father refuses to give his blessing, spelling tragedy for the couple. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.