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Tuesday, April 23
The Indiana Daily Student

17th century version of “The Hills”

No matter the century, Keira Knightley is a babe.

Someday I want to be an extra in a lush period film, sit in the corner of a party scene dressed in extravagant clothes and a powdered wig, sipping on champagne and ending every sentence with “indeed.”

Unfortunately “The Duchess,” a story about 17th century Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, shits all over this fantasy. Her flashy but empty life proves things back then weren’t so grand after all.

Within the film’s first minutes, Georgiana’s (Keira Knightley) heartless and chauvinistic Duke husband (Ralph Fiennes) forces himself on her. Georgiana quickly becomes the “It Girl” of her day, and like any good socialite, found her Nicole Richie in the form of Bess Foster, a woman whose husband abandoned her and took their children with him.

Livid with her inability to produce a male heir, the Duke forces Georgiana to suffer through a loveless marriage. The Duke then helps Bess get her kids back in exchange for her functioning as a live-in mistress, well known to Georgiana. When Georgiana seeks affection from a young politician, the Duke threatens to destroy their lives.
 
Like any good period film, “The Duchess” is filled with lavish costume design and breathtaking European locations. The film’s subdued score is fine; however, many scenes would have benefited from the use of pure silence to heighten the sense of emptiness plaguing Georgiana’s tumultuous life.

Knightley is radiant as always, but she never appears to age. Even with disheveled hair and tear-stained face as she loses a child in middle age, she looks like a young 20-something.

Director Saul Gibb manages to inject humor in some pretty depressing places. He also dramatically emphasizes the awfulness of the Duke’s behavior with the use of a close-up shot of a house servant, forced to guard a bedroom door while the screams of Georgiana being raped fill the house. Unsettling, but powerful.

“The Duchess” proves that these old Brits know how to stir up more drama than “The Hills” could ever dream of.

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