Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Lion in Winter is still Dangerous

Can love and ambitions coexist between a husband and wife? What if both of them are competing for the same prize? Will love turn to hate? Is love and hate both side of the same coin? These are some of the questions this James Goodman’s Broadway play which was converted to a full length movie (screenplay written by Goodman himself) seeks to answer. By itself, The Lion in Winter is a story worth watching. Add in the charisma of Patrick Stewart and the subtle sexuality of Glenn Close and you have a dynamic of a movie.

Henry II (Patrick Stewart) is getting old. He is one of the most successful king of England and his territory includes England, Wales, Scotland, Acquitaine, and part of France. Now, in his Christmas court at Chiron, he plans to announce the successor to his throne. His three sons are Richard who cannot understand leadership (later will be known as the Lion Hearted), the shallow Geoffrey, and clumsy John. The only things they have in common are their parents and treachery. His wife, Eleanor (Glenn Close) of Acquitaine is as calculating as Henry and ten years before, had started a rebellion against Henry. She was defeated and imprisoned in Salisbury Castle by Richard for the last 10 years. Both Henry and Eleanor are equally calculating, ruthless, and shrew in their ambitions - which is to become king and ruler of their vast domain.

The story is a complex masterful play of plots and counterplots as two masters of intrigue match against one another. Their three sons, Philip (King of France), and Alais (Julia Vysotskaia), Henry’s mistress became pawns in their ruthless bid for control, power and ego. This is such a dysfunctional family that it saddens me to watch the movie. Yet I cannot help but admire the masterful moves of the Henry and Eleanor. As the movie unfolds, it was revealed that Henry and Eleanor are still very much in love with one another, yet they could not surrender their ambitions, pride and ego. Hence the constant battles, while inside them wax love and hate.

Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close both gave masterful performances as their characters underwent a whole gamut of emotions and tension. One could literally feel the electricity sparkle off each of them. This 2003 movie was directed by Andrei Konchalvsky and won an Emmy in 2004.

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