CANNES, France — Firebrand, directed by Karim Aïnouz and starring Jude Law and Alicia Vikander, is the return to the screen of Henry VIII and his last wife Catherine Park.
It’s widely known that Henry VIII, the Tudor king, had a particularly grim batting average when it came to matrimony.
His litany of wives, of course, is the subject of the current Broadway show, “Six,” and many other productions.
The wives’ succession of fates — two beheadings and three other deaths — has long loomed in the historical imagination, AP reported.
The new film “Firebrand,” which premiered over the weekend at the Cannes Film Festival, takes a different approach to a much-dramatized chapter of 16th century British history.
The film, directed by the Brazilian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz, stars Alicia Vikander as Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry and the only one to outlive him.
“Catherine Parr, out of all of the six wives I probably knew the least of,” Vikander said in an interview on a Cannes hotel terrace. “And it seemed like that was the general feel from everybody that I talked to. The one woman who survived was the least interesting to know about.”
“Firebrand,” adapted from Elizabeth Freemantle’s novel “The Queen’s Gambit,” has all the accoutrement of a lush period drama (Jude Law grandly co-stars as Henry), but it’s animated by a twist in perspective and a feminist spirit.
“History tells us a few things, mostly about men and war,” a title card announces at the movie’s beginning.
The film follows Parr as she negotiates a coarse, abusive husband while trying to have some role in shaping national affairs. She’s friends with the controversial Protestant preacher Anne Askew (Erin Doherty), a relationship that poses grave danger to Parr if found out.
Meanwhile, some members of the king’s court, including the bishop Stephen Gardiner (Simon Russell Beale), conspire to have Parr follow in the footsteps of Henry’s prior wives.
For Vikander, the preternaturally poised 34-year-old Swedish actor, investigating Parr was full of discovery. Parr penned several books in her life and spoke openly about Protestantism, the Reformation and then-controversial English translations of the Bible. That led to accusations of heresy and increasing distrust from Henry.
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