This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
katie’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
The tube journey on the way home from seeing The Favourite on the big screen was swarmed by thoughts of the ending of the film, what it meant, how it was done -- and a happy reflection on how cinema can convey plethoras of intricate meanings within even a single frame, something unique to it as an artform. You should go see it for the structure, dialogue, costume and acting at least. (reading this back that line is funny bcos those r the four cornerstones of film writing lol just trust me watch it)
Despite the common opinion of it being the downfall of the film (‘Unsatisfying! Why didn’t they finish it properly?’) I like to believe that the ‘unsatisfying’ nature of it is part of what makes it so great -- catharsis is never received as we never gain closure; it begs the question: will the cycle continue? Quite a fitting ending for such a poignantly absurd film. What I love so much about the final frames is the superimposed rabbit millings on top of Abigail and Anne, perhaps representative of the literal dead, of futility in meaningless reproduction, of the absurdity of keeping things -- be it rabbit or human. And the image of Abigail’s face over them, they whom she exercised power over in a crushing by her foot, reduces her to nothing more than them, caged, disposable playthings ready for use by the Queen. She is forever subservient to one whom will never see her as more than a toy and (perhaps) a disease, the Queen’s slow decay running in parallel to the increasing power gain by Abigail, her increasing instabilities politically and sexually, as well as the ascending absurdity of the film.
Anne, in a cruel anagnorisis of her mistake, finally realises that the rabbits within whom she manifests her impotence and unborn children, are, fundamentally, rabbits, and cannot be what she desperately wants them to. She thus becomes a sort of pathetic, Volpone-esque character, and the rabbits become a symbol of empty pleasure. On top of this, the episodic division of the film with title shots and contained humour presents the movie as a sort of performance, in acts, a melding of the dramatic into the cinematic, leaving the women, and in particular the Queen, at mercy of an equally dramatic tragic demise. It seems that Lanthimos may have taken the Wilde quote, ‘everything in life is about sex, except for sex, which is about power’, rather literally. Sexual and political dominance become synonymous, and despite the build up to a cathartic release, the fact that the women experience either pyrrhic victories or loss emphasizes the futility of both.
‘It doesn’t feel like a historical film; it in fact feels cruelly contemporary’ -- Kermode