Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, almost burned on the stake for heresy. Most individuals coming into Firebrand will know that Katherine Parr (Alicia Vikander) survived Henry VIII (Jude Law), however maybe not in depth what a battle of wills that survival entailed. This pungent, meaty historic drama posits them as mortal enemies not simply within the home sphere: ideologically, they had been on completely different pages of separate Bibles.
Earlier than Karim Aïnouz exhibits us any scenes from this royal marriage, he begins with Katherine skulking off secretly to a woodland shrine, to attend a sermon from her pal Anne Askew (The Crown’s Erin Doherty). This Protestant radical would quickly be torched, as a part of a witch-hunt led by the Catholic bishop Stephen Gardiner (a softly calculating Simon Russell Beale), who had the King’s ear. Suspicion builds round Katherine herself, who will get pregnant on the proper second to supply a hoped-for “spare”, then miscarries on the very time when she’s most weak to the king’s displeasure.
Or, certainly, his revolting pleasure. We’re a reel in earlier than Legislation exhibits up – his first shot because the “offended, ailing” Henry is a hilariously depressing portrait with him enjoying a flute. He’s fats, fuming and in no way hearty, with a leg rotting away that might quickly be the tip of him; there’s a short shot of maggots writhing in it which might simply trigger you to throw up.
Equally, attempt Henry’s therapy of ladies right here – grunting to hoggish climax within the unsexiest intercourse scenes of all time, hissing “no extra lies!” proper into Katherine’s mouth. Aïnouz depicts him as nothing lower than the English monarchy’s very personal Harvey Weinstein. Below his watch, the establishment struggles to look too savoury. (Festive screenings at Balmoral aren’t possible.)
Henry’s terrifying gluttony makes the function a discipline day for Legislation, who’s clearly gunning for an Oscar. It’s weird to mirror that Weinstein would in all probability have produced this if it had even been made 10 years in the past.
Aïnouz, one in every of Brazil’s most attention-grabbing administrators, provides lashings of Vermeer on this English-language debut, and even when he’s hardly in courtroom painter mode, the movie’s default handsomeness nonetheless performs it fairly secure.
Actually, the fabric, Elizabeth Fremantle’s novel Queen’s Gambit, may need lent itself higher to a miniseries. Because it stands, Aïnouz solely has time for sketchy political intrigue with the Seymour brothers (Eddie Marsan, Sam Riley). Additionally, it’s a pat sympathy ploy simply to maintain telling us Katherine was a faithful stepmother. Patsy Ferran’s underexploited Mary may need been the way in which to check that.
Vikander can’t make Spouse Quantity Six as attention-grabbing a heroine as Anne Boleyn. The script is properly conscious it must beef up her company with probably the most speculative ending it will possibly summon. Paradoxically, the movie peters out somewhat bit by forcing its hand – however Legislation is horribly good.
120 minutes; cert tbc. Screening as a part of the Cannes Movie Competition; a UK launch date is but to be introduced