The Queen and I (Drottningen och jag)
Directed by: Nahid Persson
Cast: Empress Farah, Nahid Persson
Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Release Date: August 28, 2009
Plot: Nahid Persson fled her native Iran after making a documentary that the government felt was anti-Islamic. Now she wants to make a film about another Iranian refugee, the former Empress Farah. The two women offer different views on living in exile from a beloved country.
Who’s It For? Anyone who’s interest was piqued by the recent unrest in the Iranian elections. The film offers some really interesting perspective on Iran.
Expectations: I was intrigued by the write up, ever since reading Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and seeing the film of the same name I’ve been interested in the events of the Iranian Revolution.
Empress Farah as herself: Initially I wasn’t sure I was going to like Farah. She had a very privileged life, despite her exile and initially she’s reluctant to reveal herself to the filmmaker and by extension, the audience. But as the film progresses, though she maintains her impeccable facade, she does reveal a good deal of herself. Through her conversations with Persson, the filmmaker as well as a character in her own film, Farah reveals who she is now and how she feels about the events of her past. If she isn’t being herself, then she deserves an Oscar for her performance.
Nahid Persson as herself: The filmmaker places herself firmly in the midst of her film. Before we meet the Queen, she tells her own story of coming from a poor family and participating in the revolution that would sent Farah into exile. But after the two women meet in person, Farah goes from being a figurehead, someone Persson saw on TV as a child, to a human being. Her change in opinion forms what we, the audience, feel. Though she’s often silent and in the background, her voiceover and story inform our opinions.
Talking:The dialogue skips between Persian, French and English. Farah is a bit guarded in what she says after a lifetime of living in the spotlight, but she still comes across as well spoken and sincere. The narration helps with the social context of the film. You can go in without knowing about Iranian politics or recent history and still get a lot out of the film.
Sights: The camera is handheld and at times shaky, but this isn’t The Bourne Identity, you won’t get sick. Scenes are shot in Sweden, France and Egypt and there are some really great locations. Farah gets access to some nice places.
Sounds: Mostly ambient sound, there isn’t any sound in the movie that wasn’t recorded live.
Best Scene: There’s a scene toward the end where Nahid and Farah are talking about what they expect from the film and how their expectations about one another, especially Nahid’s toward Farah have changed over the course of the film. It doesn’t sound like a lot but feels really rewarding.
Ending: It ends with more of a whimper than a bang, the two women separate. But because of their new understanding it feels really rewarding.
Questions: What did Farah think of this documentary? Will Farah’s Iran, or even Nahid’s, ever exist again?
Rewatchability: I’d want to rewatch with friends or family who wanted to learn more about Iran and the recent instability there. It’s a good film to see with others, there’s a lot that you could talk about.
Initially I wasn’t sure I’d like this one. I tend to be extra critical of documentaries where the filmmaker puts him or herself in the middle of the action. But Nahid Persson ended up being critical to the success of her film. Farah’s an interesting woman, but it’s the contrast between these two women that makes the film work. They both had separate experiences living in Iran, but outside of the nation, as adults, they actually have a lot in common. Through their mutual experiences of loss and exile they find common ground. It’s a beautiful story and one that I’d recommend seeing.
Final Score: 7/10