Emma O'Regan Reidy delves into the formalities of the Oscar-winning period drama, The Favourite.
The Favourite (2018) is not your average history of Queen Anne. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, who gained recognition for his film The Lobster (2015), his newest release locates his eccentric, deadpan filming style in a period piece. Lanthimos doesn’t shy away from disconcerting taboos in both theme and form. The Favourite, in particular, acquires peculiar camera angles to evoke this tale of female desire and ambition. When asked by the Guardian about the film’s subject matter, Lanthimos explained that “[i]t was just reading about these people, these women, how they related to each other, their personal history, especially Anne’s,” which caught his undivided attention.
His fascinating use of camera angles to capture wide shots of sprawling gardens and fish-eyed views of the Queen’s hallway, displays his interest in evoking tone rather than simply displaying history. Though the story is rooted in fact, following the love triangle that emerged between Queen Anne, Lady Sarah, and a prodigal cousin, Abigail; Lanthimos adeptly adapts the textbook story into a tantalising visual for the 21st century. An interview by the Guardian described the film as “a bold portrayal of female power, in which women’s emotional and sexual bonds with one another move the gears of history as much as the political manoeuvres of men.”
Lanthimos effectively creates a new space for this lesbian narrative to take place. The fish-eye lenses enhance the anomalous story-line of a romance between Queen Anne and Lady Sarah. The bulbous lens accentuates this. The viewer is continually confronted by the leading ladies and the spaces which they occupy in new ways. In scenes particularly concerned with feminine power dynamics, the choice of a tilted camera angle forces the spectator to look up to the actresses, augmenting their authority. Later on in his interview with the Guardian, Lanthimos explained that his films are provocative “to provoke thought and discussion and, you know, shake people up to start thinking about things in a different way. I’m interested in messing with what they think is the norm.” Lanthimos succinctly messes with the norm, creating a poetically strange film in The Favourite.