Yorgos Lanthimos’s much-anticipated The Favourite marks a departure from the Greek director’s style; wit and rhythm displace the auteur’s trademark silences, non sequitur and surreal situations.
The film tells the story of two cousins – Lady Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) – who fight for the attention of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). The great degree of irony and fun with which Lanthimos depicts the utter fragility of the English monarch – who is at the mercy of these two women – slowly turns into a ruthless feud. By the end of the movie, you could cut the tension with a knife.
The Greek director makes use of ultra-wide lenses to emphasise the contrast between the vastness of the palace’s rooms and gardens, and the smallness of these lonely human beings who get to decide the fate of millions of people – often influenced by their mood. Slow-motion sequences underline the meaninglessness of what makes or breaks the days of those in power.
From the nation’s destiny to the daily routine, everything is seen through the eyes of women. Even Nicholas Hoult (prime minister-to-be Robert Harley) and Joe Alwyn (the future husband of Abigail) are given a very feminine look – with wigs and heels – and a soft attitude.
Thanks to the brilliant performances of the three leads, the feature remarkably manages to mix political and social considerations with an engaging narration that is visually ambitious yet easy to absorb. The fast-paced editing does not hinder the elegantly composed shots; if anything, it gives it further harmony. It’s a project that took nine years to realise.
The Favourite is still an unconventional piece of cinema, but it’s Lanthimos’s most accessible film to date, his artistry now lying in the exceptional camera work. Finally, there’s more substance to the auteur’s grotesque take on storytelling.
The Favourite is released nationwide on 1st January 2019.
Read more reviews from our Venice Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Venice Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for The Favourite here: