Queen of the Desert movie
Nicole Kidman and director Werner Herzog bring to life the extraordinary true story of a trailblazing woman who found freedom in the faraway world of the Middle East. Gertrude Bell (Kidman) chafes against the stifling rigidity of life in turn-of-the-century England, leaving it behind for a chance to travel to Tehran. So begins her lifelong adventure across the Arab world, a journey marked by danger, a passionate affair with a British officer (James Franco), and an encounter with the legendary T.E. Lawrence (Robert Pattinson). Stunningly shot on location in Morocco and Jordan.
Queen of the Desert wiki
Queen of the Desert is a 2015 American epic biographical drama film written and directed by Werner Herzog and is based on the life of British traveller, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer and political officer Gertrude Bell. The film follows Bell’s life chronologically, from her early twenties till her death. It is Herzog’s first feature film in six years after his 2009 film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
The film stars Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Damian Lewis and Robert Pattinson. After going through many delays and casting problems, production finally took place from December 2013 to March 2014 in Morocco, Jordan and England. It was screened in the main competition section of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival and had its premiere on February 6, 2015. It had a theatrical release in Germany on September 3, 2015. It is scheduled to be released in a limited release and through video on demand on April 14, 2017, by IFC Films.
The film received mostly negative reviews from critics and was also a financial disappointment, grossing $2 million against a $36 million production budget.
- Nicole Kidman as Gertrude Bell
- James Franco as Henry Cadogan
- Damian Lewis as Charles Doughty-Wylie
- Robert Pattinson as T. E. Lawrence
- Christopher Fulford as Winston Churchill
- Mark Lewis Jones as Frank Lascelles
- Jenny Agutter as Florence Bell
- Holly Earl as Cousin Florence
- Beth Goddard as Aunt Lascelles
- Michael Jenn as R. Campbell Thompson
- Assaad Bouab as Sheikh
- Jay Abdo as Fattouh, Bell’s guide
- David Calder as Hugh Bell
- Nick Waring as Mark Sykes
- Sam Kanater as Dulaim
- Sophie Linfield as Judith Doughty-Wylie
- William Ellis as Earl of Chester
- John Wark as Arnold Runcie
- Younes Bouab as King Faycal
- Fehd Benchemsi as Ibrahim
- Ismael Kanater as Dulaim
- Anas Chrifi as Emir
Queen of the Desert review
Queen of the Desert breaks form with several other Herzog movies: A female lead character, a grand Hollywood-like production and most interesting: a different perspective on the culture-nature dichotomy and the effects of cultural distance that almost forms the core of Herzog’s work.
It tells the story of Gertrude Bell (Kidman), an English writer and traveler who became more and more influential in the Middle East region through her unprecedented travels where she formed bonds with several future postcolonial leaders. Later in life she became involved in politics and helped to found several nation states (and determine its borders), along which Jordan and Iraq through the Hashemite dynasties. She worked in close cooperation with T.E. Lawrence (Pattison).
It is always interesting to see what’s left out of the story: her efforts to establish the new countries were far more extreme and tiresome (plus the real reason Iraq was founded: cost-cutting by the British Empire), her witnessing of the Armenian genocide and slave trade, her actual spying role, her relative poverty, illness and depression later in life. What is paid attention to elaborately are her love interests (well played by Franco and Lewis), both ending in tragedy. But too much are we watching a watered-down, Hollywood interpretation of Bell by Kidman and not the real strong and intelligent woman she obviously had to be handling the complexities of deal making in the region.
Yet some typical trademarks of Herzog still shine through: travel to unknown, unmapped places where people find their cultural beliefs and visions on reality tested. In Herzog’s world, venturing into nature from the cultural boundaries of existence always leads to suffering and destruction, mankind being unable to conquer the forces of nature. What makes this movie then atypical in the work of Herzog is that Bell finds solace and fulfillment through that process. Also atypical is the time we spent inside: these scenes inside the bastions of power are unfortunately not the best in the movie, and in the landscape scenes, Herzog seems much more on his turf.
Herzog always saw himself as resisting the banality of the images film is projecting, but here he somewhat contributes to that process. Despite that Queen of the Desert is still very watchable, informative and yes, even entertaining.