So, five years after the first viewing and I’ve finally filled in some of those gaps.
Just to re-iterate, I first watched this film whilst at university. I watched it as part of my Natalie Portman Cataloguing, and that is apparently all I took away from the film after that first watch.
I’m ashamed at myself for not remembering that Anne’s sister was called Mary. That is probably one of the many Tudor-related facts I learnt at school, and even forgetting that specific one, the era itself is one big clue and I could have made an educated guess had I really thought about it. Women and young girls were either called Anne, Mary, Margaret, Jane or Catherine/Katherine were the most popular names of the time.
But forgetting a name is just the start of my problems.
Henry Percy? Forgot about him completely. I don’t remember learning about him in school and I certainly didn’t remember that whole subplot in the film.
Another person I blanked out on was the character of William Carey, Mary’s husband, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. I think I can safely say that this is the worst thing to forget of the whole film, because the true story starts when Mary and William get married, and it spirals on from there. There was a bit of a possible error, or maybe it was poetic license, but in the film they make Mary out to be the younger sister who, un-traditionally,is the first of the two girls (three children) to get married, which is something Anne comments on more than once.
In real life, Mary was the eldest of the three, so being married first was expected. But if this was poetic license, admittedly it did allow an increased conflict between the sisters more than the historical accuracy would have allowed.
Back to William Carey. In the film, he is a man of modest means, which is probably what drives him to jump at the chance to be in the king’s court when Mary gets chosen to be the “queen’s newest lady in waiting” against the wishes of Mary herself. Everybody involved of course knew that by “Queen’s newest lady in waiting”, they meant “King’s latest mistress”. And although he didn’t seem all that keen to have his wife play prostitute to the king, he didn’t seem to put up much argument against it.
I suppose you could argue that it was skirting the line of treason, arguing with the king’s wishes, but I highly doubt that had anything to do with William Carey’s lack of opposition.
Now, I admittedly still had to fast forward through a few scenes, but I remembered having to fast forward through scenes so I should have remembered the scenes outside of fast-forwarding, but I think it’s clear I didn’t take in about 85% of the film in first viewing.
I mentioned yesterday that I remembered a miscarriage. Now after re-watching, I actually mis-remembered the scene where Mary had a mid-way bleed and combined it with the scene where Anne loses her baby.
Just two things related to that which I can’t really go without commenting on.
1) Whilst Mary was “lying-in” with King Henry’s baby, she is still married to William Carey, so why the hell didn’t he visit her? It’s clear why Henry didn’t, but William? Surely he understood the position his wife was in (oh god no pun intended) and if he’d have cared about her at all, he should have visited. Obviously I’m saying this about an account given by a film, I’ve no idea whether this is how it really happened or not. But if it is how it happened, then shame on him in real life, and if it wasn’t how it really happened, just how they chose to show it in the film, then why? Are we meant to just forget about him and focus on the soap opera-esque two timing King Henry’s got going on?
And 2) Anne losing her baby and chosing incest instead of telling King Henry that she lost the baby for fear of losing her position in the court (cough his bed cough)… I forgot that whole entire story line of the film and I don’t even have to guess why.
But from what I know about Anne Boleyn, there’s no actual evidence she committed incest with her brother, and more reasons to believe that the claims were made to purposefully tarnish her name.
And talking of her brother, I spent this viewing reading him as gay. Not sure whether that was intentional or even historically accurate, but there was something there not quite between the lines that suggested “homosexual”.
And then there was the whole bit with Catherine of Aragon. Making Mary sing, not giving up her marriage to Henry or her crown without a fight, the whole trial. I should have remembered that, but with almost everything else, that never stuck in my mind either.
And last but not least, the farmer. What can I say about the farmer? With the white shirt that didn’t seem quite the right clothing for a farmer…
Well, I can ask where the hell was he! Did my mind make him up!? Was he some figment of my imagination that dug his heels into my brain because I apparently found the film too boring to commit it to memory?
Either I have watched another film at the same time, with a farmer in it that fits my description, or I watched an extended version of the film and there is actually a farmer that fits that description, or I’ve gone stark raving bonkers. Because I was so sure I saw a farmer in the film, and even worse, I’m sure I mentioned it to my friend, about how strange I found it that a farmer, of all trades, was wearing those kind of clothes, and my friend agreed with me. Unless she was humouring me, which is possible.
And the rest of the film, the parts and historical figures I’ve not mentioned or singled out, just show how appalling our history is. Which is something that we need to learn about, and to remember, so that we improve our society in the future so that we never repeat those days. Maybe from more historically accurate sources than this Hollywood film, though.
All in all, i’m glad I re-watched the film, so that I could satisfy my need to fill in the blanks. But as a film, it’s nothing more than a sensationalised period drama that dragged out embellished historical accuracy with beautiful scenery and beautiful people in wonderful period costume.
There are a lot better Tudor-based films out there that tell near enough the same story.