The Fulfillment of a Vision


The realization of a vision can be one of the most rewarding experiences of life. Fulfilling such an undertaking may be challenging, but, if we’re true to ourselves as we move through the process, we’re likely to find it eminently satisfying and often on many levels, both for ourselves and those who stand to benefit from our efforts. So it was for a determined monarch who helped bring about dramatic changes in her country in the wake of a devastating conflict, as seen in the new Romanian historical drama, “Queen Marie” (web site, trailer).

In 1916, two years after the start of World War I, previously neutral Romania entered the conflict on the side of the Allied Forces of France, Russia and the United Kingdom, which were later joined by the United States. It was believed that this move would help to give the country some protection against the advances of German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman forces. It was also thought that this affiliation would help to unify ethnic Romanians, whose population was spread out across the adjacent lands of Bukovina, Bessarabia, Transylvania, Banat, Crişana and Marcmureş, an initiative that might eventually lead to the creation of “Greater Romania.”

However, in 1917, in the wake of the overthrow of the ruling Romanov family and the unleashing of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Russians withdrew from the war, leaving Romania virtually defenseless against advancing German troops. This development led to the deaths of many Romanian soldiers and civilians and forced the war-torn nation to negotiate an unpopular peace treaty with Germany, a desperate diplomatic effort that the country’s leadership believed might help it buy some time in the waning days of the conflict. And, by the time the war ended in 1918, Romania never signed the treaty with the vanquished Germans.

In 1919, as peace talks formally ending the war began in Paris, Romania was considered one of the victors and sent a delegation to the conference to represent its interests. In addition to seeking aid relief for the nation’s citizenry, the country also pled its case to establish the aforementioned Greater Romania as the map of Europe was being redrawn. Romanian interests were advanced by Prime Minister Ion Brătianu (Adrian Titieni), but his arguments were largely ignored by the conference’s indifferent lead negotiators, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George (Richard Elfyn), French Prime Minister George Clemenceau (Ronald Chenery) and American President Woodrow Wilson (Patrick Drury). And, when Minister Brătianu reported back to Romania’s King Ferdinand (Daniel Plier), it became apparent that a different approach would have to be considered if the country’s aims were to be furthered and addressed.

The ruling monarchs of Romania, King Ferdinand (Daniel Plier, left) and Queen Marie (Roxana Lupu, right), struggle through a variety of issues in their personal and public lives in the new historical drama, “Queen Marie.” Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

The French minister to Romania, Count de Saint-Aulaire (Philippe Corait), suggested changing or augmenting the country’s delegation to get the attention of the conference’s leadership. The first name that came to mind was the charming and eminently popular Queen Marie (Roxana Lupu), a compassionate humanitarian who worked tirelessly to support her people during and after the war. The Queen was not to become actively involved in negotiations given that Romania, like many other European nations, was a constitutional monarchy in which diplomatic matters were addressed by politicians and not the ruling royalty. However, monarchs like Queen Marie were not without influence, and, considering her reputation, she was seen as a tactful yet forthright representative for her people.

Marie was seen as the logical choice for several reasons. She was well-liked by many, especially those who benefitted from her kindness and compassion during and after the war. She volunteered to serve as a nurse in field hospitals during the conflict. After the war, she personally oversaw the delivery of food and supplies to those in need. And, as a witness to the plight of the suffering, she became a vocal advocate to secure more supplies. What’s more, given her strength of character and willingness to fight for the needy, she became an unofficial but nevertheless charismatic symbol of the emerging women’s rights movement, not just in Romania, but internationally, one who could stand toe to toe with her supposedly unshakable male counterparts.

Marie was also chosen in part because of her heritage. As the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, the English-born monarch was well-acquainted with Europe’s elite power brokers and the ways of court diplomacy. Given this royal status, she had family ties to the crown heads of the continent, such as her cousin, England’s King George V (Nicholas Boulton). This background and her blood ties thus helped to bolster her image as a refined and formidable woman of power and not just the consort of a head of state from some obscure European cultural backwater. This pedigree, it was thought, might enable her to call in favors, if needed, with the ruling elite of other more highly placed participants in the peace talks.

On top of these attributes, Marie was skillful in courting the support of valuable allies who could help to effectuate deals and concessions behind the scenes. This was particularly true of her relationship with Canadian-born adventurer Joseph Boyle (Robert Cavanah), who would later become an entrepreneur in England with ties to highly placed officials in government. He would subsequently become a trusted advisor to the Romanian government, as well as a confidante to Queen Marie. She came to value his advice and never hesitated to draw upon his influence in furthering her causes.

Delivering much-needed supplies to war-torn Romania became a high priority for the nation’s ruling royalty in the wake of World War I, as depicted in the new historical drama, “Queen Marie.” Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Still, even with these assets in her favor, Marie had doubts about her ability to succeed in her mission to Paris, partly because her role wasn’t clearly defined. The King cautioned her not to unduly interfere in the work of the country’s official delegation, urging her not to “improvise” when it came to her efforts. What’s more, though, Marie was unsure of her ability to pull off this assignment in light of the difficulties she was experiencing inside her own family. She pondered how she could manage the affairs of state when she couldn’t even manage affairs within her own family. She was most concerned about the contentious relationship that existed between her and Ferdinand with their eldest son, Prince Carol II (Anghel Damian), heir apparent to the Romanian throne. Carol’s “reckless” behavior troubled Marie and Ferdinand, particularly when it came to his tawdry relationship with a commoner, Zizi Lambrino (Maria Muller), whom the Prince planned to marry against his parents’ wishes. Marie became so concerned that she threatened to revoke his right of ascendancy and replace him with his younger brother, Nicolae (Adrian Damian), as heir apparent, a decision that threatened to tear the family apart.

Marie had her own relationship issues as well. Her marriage to Ferdinand was largely an arranged affair; the couple barely knew one another when they wed. And, even though they had been together many years, they were often personally estranged from one another, despite their close-knit bond on matters of state. To offset this, Marie quietly engaged in an affair with Prince Barbu Stirbel of neighboring Wallachia (Emil Mandanac), a polished gentleman who often served as an informal and unofficial advisor to the Queen. This relationship appeared to be a happy one, but the marital issues with Ferdinand nonetheless remained.

Despite her doubts, Marie embarked on her journey to Paris. She was warmly received upon arrival, becoming the new toast of the City of Lights. However, when she met with Prime Minister Brătianu, she discovered that the agenda planned for her was largely ceremonial – attendance at memorial unveilings, flower shows and other such frivolous events. She could see that, if she was going to have any impact, she would have to work behind the scenes to arrange meetings with the conference’s big players. And thus she did, coordinating efforts through contacts like Joseph Boyle, King George V and American First Lady Edith Wilson (Caroline Loncq) to arrange audiences with Lloyd George, Clemenceau and President Wilson, events that proved Queen Marie was indeed no one to be trifled with. Romania’s future was on the line, and Marie was not willing to see her efforts go for naught.

King Ferdinand of Romania (Daniel Plier, right) seeks resolution to the plight of his nation’s people in the wake of World War I in director Alexis Sweet Cahill’s latest, “Queen Marie.” Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

When a crucial need emerges and requires fulfillment, it’s inspiring and comforting to see individuals who are willing to step forward to address them. That’s particularly true when the need is great and affects many who aren’t able to effectively help themselves. The leadership exhibited by such dynamic and courageous souls can work wonders, attaining results thought impossible. So it was with Queen Marie. She saw what was needed and made it happen.

While it’s true that the monarch had many resources at her disposal to assist her in her efforts, none of what she accomplished would have happened were it not for her vision, specifically her belief in the notion that her sought-after goals could be attained. She had tremendous faith in her convictions based on thoughts, beliefs and intents that were firmly grounded in her consciousness.

Marie’s success was driven in large part by the fact that her beliefs were heavily infused with her personal strength of character, her sense of integrity and her authentic self. When our intentions are characterized by these qualities, it galvanizes their potency and staunchly imbues their authenticity. That’s quite a winning combination, especially when the tasks at hand represent Herculean undertakings. It’s perhaps best seen in the success of her humanitarian ventures, accomplishments wrought from her inherent sense of profound compassion. Indeed, the emergence of her true self won the day.

In bringing about these results, Marie employed a number of principles and practices to see her vision fulfilled. For instance, she was willing to make use of multiple resources and tactics, particularly when conventional means didn’t hold much promise. Such creative thinking helped open doors that might have been otherwise remained locked tight. She looked past the limitations that blocked her path and routinely became innovative in her methods to get her way. It was an approach that worked exceedingly well.

Upon her arrival at the 1919 Paris Peace Talks, Queen Marie of Romania (Roxana Lupu, center) becomes the toast of the City of Lights in the new historical drama, “Queen Marie,” now available for streaming online. Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Marie also understood the power of connection, tapping contacts and relationships – some of them less than obvious – in making her case and finding her way to those who could be of the greatest help. Because everything in our existence is fundamentally interwoven, the ties that intrinsically bind all of those elements can’t be ignored. In fact, when approached with the right frame of mind, they can be accessed to great advantage in realizing the results we seek to obtain. Marie’s relationship with Joe Boyle, for example, helped her secure the ear of her English cousin King George V, who, in turn, leaned on a previously indifferent Prime Minister Lloyd George to urge him to give attention to Romanian interests. Similar results came from Marie’s relationship with First Lady Edith Wilson, who helped facilitate a meeting with her husband Woodrow, an often-reclusive participant in the peace talks who was previously reluctant to give Marie the time of day. And, once she made those connections, she made the most of the opportunity to exert her influence and to tap into theirs.

In tackling these tasks, Marie faced a significant personal challenge to overcome, namely, her doubts about her ability to accomplish what she set out to do. Doubt can significantly undercut our manifestation efforts, preventing our hoped-for creations from materializing, and Marie had concerns in this area. Her uncertainty was driven by the turmoil in her family life and her frustration in achieving what she sought, most notably in her relationships with Princes Carol and Nicolae. She was troubled by Carol’s rampant irresponsibility, afraid that he would bring shame on the royal family, potentially damaging its relationship with Romanian citizens. She was also hurt by Nicolae’s staunch unwillingness to step into the role of replacement heir apparent if needed, preferring instead to formally eschew his royal obligation and remain in England where he was attending university. However, she knew if she was going to succeed on her mission to Paris, she would have to set such thoughts aside and keep doubt at bay, preventing it from interfering with her other plans.

Queen Marie of Romania (Roxana Lupu, left) discusses protocol for her country’s delegation at the 1919 Paris Peace Talks with her nation’s lead negotiator, Prime Minister Ion Brătianu (Adrian Titieni, right), in “Queen Marie.” Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

The Queen’s myriad accomplishments, from humanitarian efforts to European political maneuvering, speak volumes about her aptitude in working her personal magic. It’s as if she were living out her destiny, being her best, truest self for the betterment of herself and those around her. Considering what the Romanian people had been through during and after the war, not to mention the new threat posed by the Bolsheviks on the country’s northern border, she significantly helped strengthen the country’s position in the new Europe. That represents quite a determined and dedicated effort, especially since she was working tirelessly for the future and well-being of a nation that wasn’t even her native homeland. When one considers the lengths she went to in serving her people, she obviously epitomized the principles she championed, making them real and not just engaging in political hot air.

While some elements of this somewhat complex story are admittedly a little underdeveloped, as are the nature and background of some of the film’s supporting characters, director Alexis Sweet Cahill’s latest nevertheless provides intriguing insights into a little-known historical saga and the life of a formidable humanitarian. The superb lead performance by Roxana Lupu as the storied sovereign and the picture’s impeccable period piece production values make for an engaging watch, even for those who might not usually find such tales particularly captivating. On balance, this offering is indeed one fit for a queen. The film is available for streaming online.

When many of us think about royalty, the image that often comes to mind has to do with capricious, aloof, self-absorbed individuals who indulge decadent whims to suit their personal desires. And, in some instances, that might very much be the case. But, as this film shows, not all monarchs are cut from the same velvet robes. Some, like Queen Marie, aren’t afraid to put themselves on the line for their people, rolling up their sleeves and getting down to the work of looking after their subjects’ welfare. We could use more leadership like that these days, and this film provides us with an excellent role example, someone who is capable of truly crowning achievements.

A complete review is available by clicking here. 

Become a Modern Warrior!

How do we create the life we want? Find out by reading “Movies for Developing and Living Life Your Way” in the latest issue of Modern Warrior magazine (formerly Life Quote Journal). For more about this uplifting new online publication, click here.

An Enigmatic Genius

True geniuses in cinema are indeed rare, despite the tremendous inflationary hype that has occurred in bestowing such an esteemed degree of recognition in recent years. It’s a title that should be reserved for those who have brought their brilliance to the art and advanced it in ways that had not been previously dared or even envisioned. These filmmakers are the groundbreakers, the audacious artists who have opened doors not only for themselves, but also for those who succeeded them. And, in doing so, they have taken moviemaking to an entirely new level, as profiled in the excellent new documentary, “Kubrick by Kubrick” (web site, trailer).

Few will disagree that one of the giants among these inspired innovators was director Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). The New York native who spent much of his professional life in England wasn’t one of the industry’s most prolific filmmakers, often spending years between projects, but his output is some of the most memorable and inventive in movie history. And Kubrick’s work provided the inspiration for many who followed, influencing the development of others who later would go on to their own greatness, such as Steven Spielberg.

Because Kubrick’s innovations were so cutting edge, his work wasn’t always understood or appreciated to the degree it deserved to be at the time of its release. The auteur’s tendency to be something of an enigmatic recluse added to that mystique. He seldom granted interviews and engaged only minimally in publicity efforts for his productions. Yet, despite his unconventional ways of working, his films were nearly always awaited with eager anticipation, with moviegoers anxiously curious to find out what he would come up with next. As a result, Kubrick became an atypically charismatic figure, one who developed a loyal, almost cult-like following, one that has only grown in the years since his passing.

Even though Kubrick was largely withdrawn when it came to his dealings with reviewers and journalists, he nevertheless established an ongoing relationship with French writer-editor Michel Ciment, who wrote a major overview of the director’s repertoire in 1968. Kubrick subsequently contacted Ciment, and thus began a 20-year dialogue between the two. Through a series of audio interviews, Kubrick opened up about his art, offering insights into his method, his outlooks and how his projects came together.

The contents of those interviews form the basis of director Gregory Monro’s documentary. Through numerous sound bites from Ciment’s recordings, Kubrick comes back to life for viewers. He speaks extensively about cinema theory, as well as his individual film projects in an array of aspects, from casting to thematic elements to filming techniques. It’s a revelatory experience to be sure.

The audio segments are augmented with a wealth of clips from most of Kubrick’s films, including “Paths of Glory” (1957), “Spartacus” (1960), “Dr. Strangelove” (1964), “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “A Clockwork Orange” (1971), “Barry Lyndon” (1975), “The Shining” (1980), “Full Metal Jacket” (1987) and “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999). It also includes incisive archival interview footage with those who worked with him, including actors Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sterling Hayden, Malcolm McDowell, Shelley Duvall, Vincent D’Onofrio, Marisa Berenson and R. Lee Ermey, as well as collaborators like writer Arthur C. Clarke, production designer Ken Adam and cameraman Garrett Brown, noted film critic Roger Ebert, and Kubrick’s wife of 41 years, Christiane.

“Kubrick by Kubrick” reinforces some of the signature elements characteristic of the director’s offerings, such as the look of impersonal yet captivating detachment often present in the camera work of many of his pictures. It also addresses Kubrick’s meticulousness for perfection, particularly how virtually all aspects of his works were deliberately constructed down to the smallest detail. Yet, surprisingly, the film also reveals Kubrick’s appreciation for improvisation (especially from his cast members) and his willingness to incorporate such inventiveness into his finished products when he believed it enhanced the production, a quality unexpected from someone who had a reputation for being one of the industry’s most notorious control freaks. Examples include Malcolm McDowell’s macabre rendition of Singin’ in the Rain in “A Clockwork Orange” and Peter Sellers’s comically uncontrollable Nazi salute in “Dr. Strangelove.” Kubrick indeed recognized cinematic pots of gold when he saw them and never shied away from making use of them when appropriate.

Kubrick’s films are known for their stellar acting, but those portrayals often came about by way of unconventional means. The director employed some unusual (some would even say merciless) techniques to coax his cast members into delivering performances that he knew they were capable of giving, even if they didn’t. In recounting their experiences in working on “The Shining” and “Dr. Strangelove,” Shelley Duvall and Sterling Hayden, respectively, spoke of how Kubrick had them perform some scenes so many times that they were on the verge of losing it, coming to believe that the filmmaker was a sadistic tyrant incapable of being satisfied. Yet it was in those later takes that Kubrick would usually find what he was looking for out of them. The release of raw emotions that he wanted would finally surface, but it never would have happened until he drew it out of them through such debilitatingly exhausting practices.

Those who knew and worked with Kubrick acknowledged that he was often drawn to the darker elements of existence, and directorial tactics like those just described would seem to suggest that his captivation with life’s menacing aspects was even capable of surfacing through him and his behavior to a somewhat questionable degree. But, at the same time, Kubrick’s sidelong cynical outlook and its depiction through his work is what made his films so compelling – and memorable. Without a doubt, Kubrick frequently dealt with ominous and troubling subject matter, but, in doing so, he put a spotlight on it, exposing it for what it was and pushing us to recognize the warnings he was imparting in these important cautionary tales. In his own way, it was as if he was asking us how willing we are to tolerate atrocities like the hell of war so vividly captured in “Full Metal Jacket” or the decadent, intrusive, intimidating invasiveness of the power elite depicted in “Eyes Wide Shut” or the potential dangers of artificial intelligence chillingly chronicled in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” all of them serving as quiet but powerful calls to arms.

Just as Kubrick worked to move the art of cinema forward, his films thus encourage us to move forward personally, both individually and collectively, even if that message is delivered in a somewhat backhanded way. The question is, will we rise to the challenge? It probably depends on how closely we’re watching – and how well we’re paying attention. Maybe we need the kind of eye-opening inventiveness that characterizes Kubrick’s work to get the message.

Given the themes of Kubrick’s films, many moviegoers have developed the impression that the director was a pained artist, one who harbored a tortured soul. But, considering the brilliance of his work, he was a profound thinker. It’s also apparent that he saw his pictures as labors of love, vehicles for expressing the love of creativity for its own sake, a celebration of the joy and power inherent in it. And, when we look at what Kubrick accomplished, he truly was a master of these notions.

Kubrick certainly made the most of this in his work. In groundbreaking films like “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the director pushed the limits of creativity, giving us an epic that broke all the rules, a gesture that was a lasting gift to cinephiles and generations of moviemakers to come. More than 50 years after its release, this cinematic milestone has held up tremendously, having set new standards in camera work, special effects, soundtrack scoring and narrative content, a story so rich and sublime that it continues to prompt profound discussion even today.

In employing this outlook, Kubrick drew upon a number of key concepts. For example, despite the deliberate construction of his films, Kubrick engaged his intuition often. While intuitiveness may seem a somewhat intangible resource to employ in a definitive context, his use of it often produced cinematic gems. His willingness to draw upon improvisation and his unconventional practices for prompting cast members to dig deep within themselves to yield their best work typify his intuition at work. He may not have been able to quantify the value of this resource, but he trusted it, believing in its veracity and its ability to give him exactly what he needed when he needed it.

His penchant for pushing the envelope is also reflected in his work. His inspired vision “enlarged” the art of filmmaking and, in so doing, expanded our consciousness about what is possible cinematically. This is true both for those who make and watch films, raising our expectations and the state of the art. While each of Kubrick’s offerings were distinctively his, they were all distinctively different from one another, taking him in new directions with every release, both in his own filmography and in the collective catalog of cinema. Few directors can lay claim to this as definitively as Kubrick could.

In the 20+ years since Kubrick’s passing, fascination with the director’s legacy has grown, especially in the past decade. A number of documentaries have been released, such as “Kubrick Remembered” (2014), “Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes” (2008), and the excellent and insightful offering about the director’s devoted assistant, Leon Vitale, “Filmworker” (2017). Even a comedy about one of the filmmaker’s works, “Color Me Kubrick” (2005), a send-up of the making of “Eyes Wide Shut,” has found its way into the movie marketplace. But, as films about Kubrick go, this release is handily the best.

“Kubrick by Kubrick” not only does justice to the life of the artist, but it also does justice to itself as a tremendous piece of filmmaking. This superb French-Polish co-production made for European TV is impeccably assembled, both in its selection of audio and video clips and in its clever production design, which features a re-creation of the iconic bedroom set from the closing sequence of “2001” through which segments on the director’s various films are introduced by way of strategically embedded pieces of Kubrickiana culled from those pictures. The use of these iconic props enhances the look and feel of the film, allowing viewers to become visually immersed in the subject matter. The picture’s taut editing tells a mesmerizing story in an economical 73 minutes, never allowing the narrative to become needlessly bogged down by extraneous detail or tedious, irrelevant padding. Director Gregory Monro pays a fitting tribute to his subject’s work, reverently echoing Kubrick’s style and reinforcing the themes and perspectives that made his films so original and unforgettable. For fans of the filmmaker, this is absolute must-see material.

As good as this film is, however, moviegoers may have some trouble finding it. As noted above, “Kubrick by Kubrick” was originally made for European television, and it has since been primarily playing the film festival circuit. Distribution deals are being sought, but no definitive word on this front has been forthcoming. This fine offering truly deserves a wider release; let’s hope it receives that opportunity.

Being able to witness a genius live up to his or her potential is an uplifting sight indeed. Their accomplishments are something to marvel at, filling us with a sense of awe and, one would hope, the inspiration to follow suit. Icons like Stanley Kubrick provide us with examples worth emulating, showing us the satisfaction that comes from realizing our aspirations and the fulfillment that arises from helping to motivate others in their ventures, no matter what field of endeavor they might encompass. That’s true genius at work.

A complete review is available by clicking here. 

Copyright © 2020-2021, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.