This movie swept up my spirit and carried it across the world and back, leaving it yearning and amazed: Queen of the Desert.
(Not to be confused with Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which is something else entirely.)
Queen of the Desert
Starring Nicole Kidman, directed by Warner Herzog, I give it five stars. The cinematography sweeps you into another world, spinning blowing sand into rushing water.
It captivated me.
I talked about it to my husband all the following day, even wrote about it in my journal.
The movie is set in the era of WWI. Kidman plays true-life character Gertrude Bell—an unmarried Englishwoman with enough money and status to (eventually) do as she pleased. And what pleased her was to explore the Middle East.
Talk about brave!
She traveled by dromedary with her caravan—for years, essentially—meeting the nomadic tribes, taking photographs, doing some archeological digs (along with T. E. Lawrence), and writing of her experience. She spoke Arabic, and Farsi among other languages. She was extremely well read, loved poetry.
Later she put her knowledge to use for the British government, including helping define the borders when the Middle East was divided post-WWI, and determining which tribal leaders would be best left in charge. I was glad someone with such a deep love of and respect for the people had some input.
What really struck me was this:
Gertrude Bell had the courage to break all the rules and to follow her heart. Even if there were no more charm to the movie (and there is lots), it would be enough.
Do it like a Queen!
I don’t know if Nicole Kidman’s portrayal is true to the real Gertrude Bell, but Kidman unquestionably inhabits the movie’s title. She is the Queen of the Desert. It’s fascinating to watch how others respond to her persona. She reminded me, in a way, of Elizabeth I, the “Virgin Queen.”
All that sand…
You’ll come away from the film completely understanding Gertrude’s love for the beauty of the desert. Of course, as I said to my husband, we never get to see the sunburn, or the saddle sores, or the sand chafing in unforgiving places. Surely she had to deal with all of that.
Still… I walked away wanting to learn Farsi and set off in my own caravan! If only times were different.
On a personal note: my family lived in Afghanistan when I was age 4 to 6. Some of the scenes brought back memories—startling and evocative.
Watch Queen of the Desert, with Nicole Kidman. Enjoy it fully. Then put on your dreaming cap, and imagine… what adventure would you take if you could break all the rules, and if there were no reason not to?