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Victoria & Abdul
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Victoria & Abdul

‘Victoria & Abdul’, the new film by Briton Stephen Frears, starts with a sign that warns us that what we are about to see is “Based on real events … for the most part”. Thus, liberated from the historicist rigor, this natural heir of ‘La reina’ – the monarchical, biopic monarchist that Frears directed in 2006 – fables with the friendship shared by Queen Victoria, played with an iron hand and crystal heart by Judi Dench, and his Hindu servant Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) at the end of the 19th century. The film, written by Lee Hall (one of the co-writers of ‘War Horse’ by Steven Spielberg), manages with agility and nobility the tools of the most popular and academic cinema: the comic elements do not hide the dramatic background of the story, the seams of great production do not interfere in the intimacy of the action and, as a more relevant virtue, the attitudes of the characters do not simplify the complex ideological and historical background of the story.

And it is that, beyond its tragi-comic course, ‘Victoria & Abdul’ proposes – as they have already done ‘The weight of water’ by Guillermo del Toro and ‘Suburbicon, by George Clooney in this same festival – think the present from of the observation of the past. In this case, the friendship of a British queen with an Indian servant serves Frears to question the conservative discourse that has marked both the path to victory for Brexit and the emergence of Islamophobia in the Western world. In this sense, it surprises how far the director of ‘High fidelity’ reaches in his manifesto in favor of dialogue between cultures and creeds: how can we not celebrate as a radical political gesture the image of an English queen spiritually relieved by a Muslim prayer? A ‘Victoria & Abdul’ can be attributed a lack of formal rigor-a greater austerity would not have hurt-just as it is possible to defend it by its proximity to the humoristic mechanisms of ‘A Yankee in the court of King Arthur ‘by Mark Twain. However, its greatest merit lies in the courage of its meridian political positioning against a culture of hatred that is often rooted in ignorance of the past.

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