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Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne Is the Main Character of ‘The Favourite’ — The Editing Proves It

Go-to editor Yorgos Mavropsaridis navigated the delicate power play without ever losing sight of the dominance of Olivia Colman's Queen Anne.

Olivia Colman in the film THE FAVOURITE. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

“The Favourite”

Atsushi Nishijima


IndieWireFallTV

Leave it to Yorgos Lanthimos to offer up the most wickedly delicious romance of the Oscar season with “The Favourite.” He turns the palace of Queen Anne (Globe-winner Olivia Colman) into a playground and battlefield, as rival cousins, Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone), curry favor by manipulating her affections.

And the director relied on his go-to editor, Yorgos Mavropsaridis, to navigate the ups and downs of Abigail and Sarah’s power struggle without ever losing sight of the queen’s dominance. At the same time, Mavropsaridis made the wild shifts in tone seem plausible, given the absurdities and eccentricities that occur in the palace.

Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman in the film THE FAVOURITE. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman in the film “The Favourite”

Yorgos Lanthimos

Read More:Quirky Female Costuming Shapes ‘The Favourite’ and ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

“I was presented with a first assembly and Abigail succeeded in getting the favor of the queen and then what?,” said Mavropsaridis. “It became a more existential situation about the queen, which is more interesting.”

The change in emphasis from Abigail’s upward palace climb to Anne’s quest for unconditional love began to take shape in the very first scene. Rather than starting with Abigail’s entrance as the impoverished younger cousin of Sarah seeking employment, Mavropsaridis instead opened with Anne and Sarah talking about their different interpretations of love.

“What’s the story about? The queen, love,” Mavropsaridis said. “Better to start with her [and Sarah as her confidante and adviser] than the appearance of some girl in the palace. It breaks it up and then we get into the love triangle. We tested many things. There are a lot of scenes, a lot of situations, and it’s very difficult to take out, so we followed this series of sequence building.”

Emma Stone in the film THE FAVOURITE. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Emma Stone in the “The Favourite”

Yorgos Lanthimos

Lanthimos choreographed “The Favourite” like a dance, contrasting the rapid ascent of Abigail with the gradual descent of Sarah. It begins with Abigail dancing with Anne to curry favor and Sarah striking back during the pigeon-shooting scene with Abigail. But make no mistake: Despite Anne’s physical frailty and bouts of depression, she’s the queen and all power rests with her.

Overall, though, this delicate balancing act gave Mavropsaridis the opportunity to experiment with nuance and play with parallel editing. For example, when Abigail goes to the woods to collect a balm to heal the queen, the editor massaged it so she didn’t appear too scheming at first.

Emma Stone and Olivia Colman in the film THE FAVOURITE. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Emma Stone and Olivia Colman in “The Favourite”

Yorgos Lanthimos

He additionally got to fix a scene that the director didn’t like, in which Abigail puts poison in Sarah’s tea. He juxtaposed Sarah riding in the woods before her fall and Abigail getting inspired by watching men playing with oranges.

“For this film, we had to be ambiguous about Abigail’s intentions and go deeper into the character, and although Sarah’s not so ambiguous, you do feel a sense of sympathy when Abigail supersedes her. But we don’t want to be sentimental. And, in the end, people are free to interpret Abigail’s actions differently.”

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