News from the Locarno Festival

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots



Some might argue that there are already more than enough costume dramas on both the big and small screens to last a lifetime, yet with his new film Mary Queen Of Scots, Switzerland's own Thomas Imbach has created a formally unconventional and eminently personal take on Mary Stuart's life and times. Questioned on the reasons behind choosing such an ambitious project, Imbach claims that he had been mulling over the idea in his mind for a while, and ultimately decided ”either you start the adventure, or you drop it“.

His producer then stepped in to underline the difficulty in convincing many people to support the making of this project. ”It was something of a challenge to try and create this very adventurous film, but Thomas was always very passionate about the project and also extremely interested in this character of Mary Stuart“ she added. Imbach's profound attachment to the personage clearly resonates in the way he addresses his own interpretation of her biography: ”In a time when relationships are based on what you get in return for what you give, she represents noble values which are no longer fashionable“. He also relates the monarch's story with issues of many modern women, namely her desire for both children and a career, or the constant challenge to her power that posed her being constantly surrounding by men.

When asked which of Mary Stuart's traits were hardest to play for main actress Camille Rutherford, she replied that ”everything was difficult because I was very scared and she impressed me greatly because she was basically a nutcase“. She also referred to one particularly daunting task: 'the horse too, that was hard because I had to endure this program so it would look like I'd been horse-riding since I was three'.

Imbach also took time to praise the original work by esteemed swiss writer Stefan Zweig whom he calls a ”master in psychological storytelling“. The director explains that, much like himself, the writer was largely uninterested with questions of Mary's guilt, preferring to focus on the volcanic explosions of her passions as she falls in and out of love with the men of her life.

He hopes that his film might be the start of a reappraisal of the historic figure. Indeed, Imbach claims that Mary Stuart has gone through many shifts in perspective across times and places. Whereas she is largely considered a heroin in continental Europe, the United Kingdom traditionally treats her as a ”french girl“. Similarly, while she is somewhat reviled nowadays, the 19th century's romantic period hailed her as an icon.

Rutherford closed the proceedings with a special mention for the film's costume designers: ”Every morning I would wake up at 6 and be ugly, but the costume designers managed to make me look like a queen“. Though it's hard to really believe the actress could ever be anything but ravishing, it was nevertheless a nice touch for her to give credit to those artists in the shadows whose work is so essential to bringing genuine life and credibility to period dramas.

James Berclaz-Lewis

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