Film Analysis: The Lion In Winter Essay

Film Analysis: The Lion In Winter Essay

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The theatrical film The Lion In Winter stars Peter O’Toole as King Henry II, and Katharine Hepburn as his wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Adapted from his stage play of the same title, author James Goldman provides a fictional, but plausible, account of intra-family deceit and political conniving within the large and powerful Angevin Empire, which spanned much of the land that is now Britain, and much of what is now Northeastern France, within the medieval world. Directed and edited by Anthony Harvey, the story, set in the winter of 1183, details the succession crisis faced by the aging King Henry II, as his three surviving sons vie for the crown, and Queen Eleanor plots, both with and against them, to regain her freedom, and become the power behind the throne occupied by her choice of successor. King Philip of France patiently waits, seeking political advantage within the internal fracturing, for the opportunity to destroy the Kingdom that Henry II has worked a lifetime to build.

Opening scenes in the film set the character definitions, as Geoffrey, the manipulator, sits atop a pinnacle, signaling his troops to attack the forces marching along the beach, while remaining in safety himself. Richard, the warrior, is in the midst of single combat and preparing to kill his opponent until distracted by the messenger of the King. Queen Eleanor, the scheming wife, in her fortress prison room, is in front of a painting easel, appearing to construct the image to place upon the canvas, calmly enduring the passing of time. John is running through the castle at full speed, scrambling and pushing people much as an unruly, spoiled and undisciplined young child would do. Henry, the teacher and patriarch, aging but still virile, is engaged ...


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...historical background set forth in the film, with the broad details of the attempted rebellion propelled by Queen Eleanor and led by Richard and Geoffrey are accurate, as is the attempt by Philip of France to undermine the Angevin Empire to regain the provinces acquired by Henry through his marriage to Eleanor. As depicted in the film, the indecision, faced by Henry II in attempting to determine which son to name as successor resulted from his desire to have the empire that he had created remain intact, rather than dividing the empire between his sons and this, in turn, led to the fracturing of both family and political cohesion, leaving the empire vulnerable to outside forces. Both Richard and John eventually ruled the empire, supported and influenced by their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was released from her Salisbury prison upon the death of King Henry II.

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