Rome IFF: The Duchess makes local noble premiere

Article published on Oct. 27, 2008
Article published on Oct. 27, 2008
British period piece The Duchess [trailer] by Saul Dibb (Bullet Boy) screened at the Rome International Film Festival today. Based on the bestselling biography by Amanda Foreman, it portrays the life and times of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, who lived in the second half of the 18th century.

The screenplay was written by the director with playwright Jeffrey Hatcher and Danish screenwriter-director Anders Thomas Jensen (After the Wedding [trailer, film focus], Adam’s Apples [trailer, film focus]). It focuses mainly on the emotional life of Georgiana (Keira Knightley), who was married at age 16 to the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes) by her mother (Charlotte Rampling). Though she become a celebrated socialite, her marriage was a loveless affair, even after she produced a male heir after giving birth to two daughters.

In Rome, Dibb characterised the story of Georgiana as “both modern and timeless. We wanted to show that this seemingly powerful woman, who used her name in national politics to further the Whig party’s interests, was actually powerless in her own marriage. She essentially lived in a gilded cage, which is something we have tried to show in the film”.

To this effect, Dibb alternates countless close-ups of the porcelain-skinned Knightley with wider shots that take in the extravagant costumes, perfectly landscaped gardens and enormous mansions. The actress really carries the film, with Dibb’s handling of the secondary characters – including Georgiana’s true love, the future Prime Minister Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper) – rather awkward.

The film was produced by Pathé and BBC Films, in association with Pathé Renn, BIM Distribuzione, Qwerty Films and Magnolia Mae Films. International sales are in the hands of Pathé Pictures International.

Boyd van Hoeij