Over a hundred years ago. The story setting of Queen of the Desert playing at the Regent Square Theater. What makes a woman defy the conventions of her time? Why is she adventurous and fearless? This woman, Gertrude Bell, affected world history and geography. There are many women adventurous and fearless in their own small ways whose exploits and decisions are only known by those whose lives they touch. Small exploits to huge sweeping ones. But this movie story of Gertrude Bell had me envisioning jumping on or rather crawling onto the back of a camel and trekking through blowing sands of the deserts, lost. But throughout the movie, I kept thinking this very logical question, “How is this fair-skinned woman protecting herself from the glaring sun of the desert on her face? She should have been burned to a crisp with a face like leather and risking the ravages of skin cancer.
Ben Kenigsberg in the “Review: Gertrude of Arabia ‘Queen of the Desert’ ” for the New York Times wrote, “When these films are at their finest, Mr. Herzog can seem as driven and half-mad as his characters.” It’s not the review of Herzog or the movie but those words describing Bell as “driven and half-mad”. Sure, driven seems right. But half-mad? Why? Because no other woman was traveling around the desert on a camel? She’s not mad or crazy. It’s those we think are half-mad or whole-mad or crazy who change history and our lives.
The movie left me needing to know more of this woman’s life. How accurate was this movie to written accounts of her? She was adventurous and fearless and genius in her camel trekking through the desert among those who might have killed her. Yet she would not defy her father to marry a man she loved. Then there was another man she loved and lost adhering to society’s conventions. So why did she shed conventions to travel as few other women did, yet not defy her father? And did the two men she loved really choose death over a life without her? Romantic and star-crossed? Maybe. But true? How important was the death of her lover to her decision to travel?
Beautiful landscapes and beautiful people in a movie. One of those that has one repeating, “I must do more with my life.”