Then there’s Queen of the Desert, which looks like it wants to be a prestige biopic, but also looks like it’s going to be really, really bad.
Nicole Kidman plays Gertrude Bell, a woman whose life was exciting enough for several films.
Bell was a writer, traveller, mountaineer, archaeologist, cartographer, and spy.
Fluent in five languages, she was as vital to the history of the Middle East as T.E. Lawrence, having served as confidante of British officials as well as tribal leaders, and was instrumental in the founding of modern Iraq.
She also witnessed the Armenian genocide.
She suffered from poor health and died in 1926 from an overdose of sleeping pills, though it’s not clear if her death was an accident or suicide.
She was, in brief, a complicated person.
None of that complexity seems to be in evidence in the trailer for Queen of the Desert.
Mostly it’s just Kidman riding horses (and camels), bewitching men, staring off into the distance in the desert, arguing with horrid Army types, going against her father’s wishes, and being a thoroughly modern who has no time for the sexist niceties of the day.
Stuffy bureaucrat: “You were summoned.”
Bell [haughtily]: “No one summons me.”
And considering it takes place mostly in the Middle East, most of the characters are English, except for a few noble-sounding Arabs who say nice things about Bell.
And then there’s this bullshit:
British official: “What is it, then, that attracts you, to the Bedouin?”
Bell: “It is something that you and your world would never understand. It’s their freedom. it’s their dignity. It’s their poetry of life.”
What is odd about this is that although the film looks a conventional period piece and middlebrow Oscar fodder, with some nice cinematography, costumes and so on, the director is none other than the utterly unconventional Werner Herzog.
Werner Herzog made a film in the desert.
And nobody died.
Or went mad.
Or threatened to kill him.
Kidman does her usual noble beauty thing and adopts a posh accent. Damian Lewis sports a moustache as an anguished admirer. Robert Pattinson plays dress-up as T.E. Lawrence. James Franco is there for some snogging.