login | register |

The Duchess

There Were Three People in her Marriage. 

Year: 2008 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Saul Dibb 
Starring: Keira Knightly, Ralph Fiennes, Dominic Cooper and Charlotte Rampling.  
An image from The Duchess

Starring a less-pouty-than-usual Keira Knightley, “The Duchess” is an 18th Century period drama that chronicles the life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, a famous ancestor of Princess Diana.

Forced into an arranged marriage with the much older, colder and supercilious William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes), doe-eyed Georgiana’s sole responsibility is to produce a male heir to a husband who cares more about his dogs than his wife. Famously a fashion icon of the period, a wit and a prominent supporter of the Whig parliament and politician Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper), the portrayal of Georgiana encapsulates the domestic struggle and eventual resignation of a woman who, to the rest of society, appeared to have it all.

Knightley’s performance shows subtly, range and far bigger hair than much of her previous work, and one feels as if this role marks an asserted change towards more a mature and challenging acting style. Fiennes is superb as the ‘bad guy’ Cavendish, "the only man in England not in love with his wife", who somehow manages to evoke empathy despite the physical and emotional abuse he delivers to stifle Georgiana. Knightley and Cooper’s on screen relationship is both tender and heart-breaking.

The film’s consideration of the possession of an 18th Century wife, even one who is lucky to enough to have several manor houses and indescribable wealth, is wholly convincing. Wide cinematic shots and echoing silences of her marriage contrast with the tenor and vivacity of scenes set in the public sphere. Although dealing with a subject matter considerably darker than the Austen jollities of other recent period ventures, the affect of “The Duchess” on the audience is far less transient and the essential humanity and truth of a life centuries ago still resonates with relevance beyond the closing credits.

Kimberley Atkins

More Information | Back to Previous Schedule | This Season  |  BBFC Classification Guidelines

Screenings of this film:

2008/2009 Spring Term (35mm)
2008/2009 Spring Term (35mm)