AFI FEST Review: With ‘Queen of the Desert,’ Werner Herzog Gets Lost in the Sand

GameStop, Inc.

queen-of-the-desert-0001

The filmography of Werner Herzog, fiction and nonfiction alike, are populated with dreamers. Sometimes these dreamers are doomed, their lofty ambition far exceeding their reach. Other times, these are dreamers that overcome obstacles and achieve the impossible. With Queen of the Desert, Herzog chronicles the life of another dreamer – Gertrude Bell, an English woman who was greatly influential in the Middle East following the end of the Ottoman Empire. Sadly, Queen of the Desert isn’t Herzog at his best. The legendary German director is never able to find the right balance between the romantic melodrama and the sweeping historical drama making Queen of the Desert one of his weaker efforts.

The film opens with a young Gertrude Bell (Nicole Kidman) as a young debutante in Victorian England. Gertrude shuns the attempts of male suitors to earn her hand in marriage, much to the chagrin of her father Hugh (David Calder). After much pleading, Gertrude harangues her father into getting her a post at the British Embassy in Tehran. It is Tehran that Gertrude meets a man that is capable of earning her affections in the embassy’s undersecretary Henry Cadogan (a woefully miscast James Franco). When Henry suddenly dies from causes unknown, a heartbroken Gertrude dives into her studies of the various tribes and lands of the Middle East. Along her travels, Gertrude runs into T.E. Lawrence (Robert Pattinson) at the archeological excavations at Petra. Between travels, Gertrude earns the affections of Charles Doughty-Wylie (Damian Lewis), a married British officer, though at first she resists before finding herself equally infatuated with him. Across the region, Gertrude Bell cultivates a reputation that has her called the “Lady of the Desert,” able to earn the respect and trust of tribal leaders throughout the region.

Queen of the Desert is very much Herzog’s take on Lawrence of Arabia. Its wide shots of the dunes of the desert, sand whisking in the wind, with a musical score that is itself very reminiscent of David Lean’s masterpiece. And, of course, having T.E. Lawrence as a character only reinforces those similarities. But Herzog hasn’t crafted an epic for the ages. Queen of the Desert has its great share of faults that overshadow some of the more interesting aspects that Herzog has within the film.

The biggest flaw of the film is in its pacing. Herzog spends far too long on establishing the doomed romance between Henry Cadogan and Gertrude Bell that will serve as the spark for Bell’s passion in the region. The scenes prevent the film from starting out with a real sense of forward momentum and it’s made all the worse by the unintentionally hilarious performance by James Franco, who is funnier here than he was in all of The Interview. But miscasting is rampant in Queen of the Desert. Robert Pattinson isn’t as embarrassing as Franco, but he never comes close to making his T.E. Lawrence the fascinating character on screen that he is the annals of history. As the film’s star, Nicole Kidman is even out of place as Gertrude Bell, especially in the early scenes when she’s supposed to be a debutante in her 20s. The role is another in a long line of underwhelming would-be prestige pictures for Kidman.

Werner Herzog spends too much time focusing on the melodrama of Gertrude Bell’s story instead of the fiery spirit that led her to become one of the West’s few icons in the Middle East. The legendary director moves away from his strengths in chronicling a dreamer chasing their passion despite the objections of their surroundings and makes a movie that uses lost love as the instigator. From a visual angle, Queen of the Desert is very much a Werner Herzog film, sometimes disorienting with its swooping camera movements and wide angle lenses. Like David Lean’s classic, Herzog is adept at conveying the sheer magnitude of the desert, framing the people as almost insignificant in relation to the expansive terrain. Most of all, Queen of the Desert is a minor Herzog film, one that only captures some of the mad spirit that has made him a legend in the film world. Many people will not be moved by the melodramatic history of Queen of the Desert, and the film is only out there for Herzog completists.

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

FanboyNation
Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
‘Wednesday’ Comes to Blu-ray on Tuesday from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

‘Wednesday‘ Comes to Blu-ray on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, from Warner...

Toy Lei Talks About Playing Auntie Victoria in ‘The Brothers Sun’ – Interview Rewind

Asian-American actress Toy Lei stars as Auntie Victoria in the new...

Marcus Massey Talks ‘Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2’ – Interview

Marcus Massey Shares his Wisdom as Owl in ‘Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and...

Event News Event Reviews
‘MJ the Musical’ Chronicles the Life of the ‘King of Pop’ Running at Segerstrom – Review

‘MJ the Musical‘ is the Ultimate Stage Adaptation, Chronicling the life...

Aiden Sinclair and Michael Rangel Talks ’57 Ghosts’ Aboard the Queen Mary Séance

Aiden Sinclair and Apparitionist, Michael Rangel Discuss their new Theatrical Séance...

Luke and Madison Rhoades Open ‘Slashers Axe Throwing’ – Interview

Luke and Madison Rhoades Open Orange County’s first ever horror themed...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Paralympian Swimmer Ahalya Lettenberger On The Road to Paris

Team USA Paralympian Swimmer, Ahalya Lettenberger is On The Road to...

Ultimate Women of Wrestling Comes to the Globe Theatre – Interview

Ultimate Women of Wrestling Comes to the Globe Theatre on Sunday,...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse, battle at the Infernal gate pt 2

Oh Bruh, you did NOT just quote "Predator"!

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – Battle at the Infernal Gate pt 1

NO NATURAL PREDATORS!

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – SID SPEAKS!

"We Demons! Let's go CRUNK on this punk-ass world!"

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus
MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Roye Okupe Brings Authentic African Representation to HBO Max and Cartoon Network

Nigerian-American, Roye Okupe brings authentic African representation to HBO Max and...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...