Portrait of the Queen

Peter Malone MSC 8 March 2023

For audiences devoted to Queen Elizabeth, but a film for photographers and those who took portraits of the queen over her long life as they reflect on their experiences.

PORTRAIT OF THE QUEEN, Italy, 2022. Narrated by Charles Dance. Directed by Fabrizio Ferri. 77 minutes. Rated G.

It could only be one queen: Queen Elizabeth II. The film was made before her death but has an epilogue dedication to her memory.

So, the Queen herself would be a principal reason for seeing this film for those devoted to her into those interested in her world influence in the 20th century. However, there is another appeal for photographers, professional and amateur, because this documentary provides an overview of photography portraits during 100 years – 90 of them encompassing the Queen’s life.

Queen Elizabeth is at the centre of the film although she does not have a speaking part. We are reminded that she never gave interviews. It was protocol that anyone meeting her should never ask her a question. The narration indicates that she was able to preserve a great deal of herself, not continually giving parts of herself away to those she met. And she never laughed on cue – only when she wished to all was amused.

This is an Italian documentary based on a book/collection by Paola Calvetti. However, it is very British, with a voiceover commentary by Charles Dance and some comments from celebrities like Susan Sarandon and Isabella Rossellini.

It certainly is a collection of portraits of the Queen, from a range of celebrated photographers over the decades, including Cecil Beaton and Lord Snowden. And several photographers are interviewed, giving detailed accounts of their photography sessions and encounters with the Queen. Which means that those in the audience who has great admiration for the Queen will be satisfied with the range of portraits of her over the decades, formal and informal, most of them posed, well-lit, but capturing aspect of the Queen’s persona if not person, her sense of duty, her relationship with the Duke of Edinburgh, her relationship with the people, her love of the corgis, and of horses.

And, throughout the film a range of British people make favourable and loyal comments about the Queen.

The other main reason for seeing the film is, as indicated, the overview of the history of photographing portraits. Keen photographers will be interested in looking at the settings for photography sessions. They will listen attentively to the photographers reminiscing, their cameras, the lighting, posing, and their being apprehensive in the presence of the Queen. The interviews indicate the varying styles, the improvements and techniques and cameras, culminating in the session for a hologram session with the Queen and her response to it.

They note that you do not take a photo of the queen. You make a photo.

So, instructive for photographers, another opportunity for loyal admiration for the monarchy for many.

Released 16 March


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