“The Favourite” is what could be called a film of “dispositif”; of complete “dispositif”, entirely at the service of the topic. The light is white and implacable when it is dazzling, lugubrious when it is dim. The women wear black and white cloth – They are sinister. Men wear red jackets – is that a sign of weakness in a monochrome world? What unites these women, what glues this small world together, what the overwhelming music embodies is power.
Queen Anne is the power. And endures it. Lady Marlborough, Godolphin and Harley have a sexual relationship with power, they enjoy it. Abigail needs power to survive. Power is crazy, power distorts perspectives in the manner of the fisheye lens used repeatedly by Yorgos Lanthimos. Is it the representation of how Queen Anne sees the world? A look altered by intermittent episodes of paranoid madness.
Crazy, they are all. Of this madness that does not say its name, which hides under the features of normality; of this madness for domination. Men wear the red of power. It makes sense, they are men, they are, by definition, the power. Relentlessly, Lady Marlborough crushes them and keeps their head below water. These are the techniques of male domination – she screams, threatens, punches; without, at any moment wishing to be taken for a man. She is a woman, a violent woman. Her cousin, Abigail, is sweet. Sweet as is a strategy which slowly but surely takes its marks; then brutal when it closes down on you. She rarely strikes, but when she strikes, like the Marquise de Merteuil, she aims for total destruction. She is probably the only sane person at the opening of the film. In the end, just like the others, she is no more than a junkie addicted to a power that is never total enough.
As for Queen Anne, whom everyone seems to abuse, who literally rots by the days, she uses power for what it is, an instrument. The instrument by which she maintains her domination over her court of junkies, the instrument by which she deflects the violence of one group towards the other and manages to create a safe space, in which she can be the sugar-addict, eccentric lesbian she is.
“The Favourite” is a game of distorting mirrors, which displays to the fullest the determination and brutality to which women, so mankind, will not hesitate to recourse to gain or retain power. It is interesting to note that “The Favourite” is called a feminist film. Why would a film about powerful women be feminist and not just a film about power? Until the powerful women are no longer seen as an object of curiosity or a demonstration of feminist activism, “The Favourite” is an excellent film.