The Favourite Shows Us What Dark Desires Can Do to Ambitious Women

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The Favourite Shows Us What Dark Desires Can Do to Ambitious Women

Illustration: Ahmed Sikander

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here’s a moment in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite that is an outcome of how the filmmaker marries the ingredients of a staid historical biopic with a simmering comic intensity of the obsession for power.

In 18th century England, Queen Anne, (Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman), who is confined to a wheelchair due to gout, is brought in to witness a festive ball that takes place at her court. After greeting her, the revellers – including the Queen’s secret lover, Sarah Churchill (an unforgettable Rachel Weisz) – prepare for a dance-off: They break into a set of hysterical moves with the seriousness that befits a monarchy. As they continue to dance, the camera shifts from their performance to the Queen’s face. At first, she sits there wordlessly gazing at Sarah, her eyes conveying surges of affection. But it takes just a moment for her emotions to see-saw: In the next seconds, her eyes glisten with tears and her face segues from joy to envy, sadness, anger, and finally, powerlessness. In that moment, her crown and her throne are rendered meaningless. Unable to bear the humiliation of being left out, the Queen stops the performance and gets wheeled back into her room where she orders Sarah to fuck her – reclaiming the spotlight that reminds her of her power.

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