Geneviève Bujold received her first and only Oscar nomination till date for playing Anne Boleyn in Anne of the Thousand Days. I always thought that the 1969 best actress race was an incredibly strong and fascinating one. Dame Maggie Smith was crowned the winner of that race, but was she the obvious choice then? Bujold won the Golden Globe, but unlike now, I don’t think the Golden Globes was as influential then. Still, what fascinated me about that race was that all 5 nominees gave tremendous performances (Tough between Fonda and Smith especially), and their characters were pretty unconventional by Oscars standards.
It might come across as a surprise to many, but I actually quite enjoyed Anne of the Thousand Days. I expected to hate it, because I really hate Mary, Queen of Scots now, but this one was actually not that bad. Personally, I always find Anne Boleyn fascinating and after watching that Natalie Portman monstrosity (oh god why), anything else seems brilliant in comparison. I agree that like Mary, Queen of Scots, the movie can be pretty theatrical and over-the-top, but for some reason I could accept it better here. I just think everything flowed better and the story is more interesting. That being said, I would have found Richard Burton’s performance captivating if this was a live theatre performance but it is just way too much here. He certainly had presence, but his line deliveries and mannerisms are a bit funny because of his overacting. He certainly loved to emphasize the last word of all his lines (“Since you have decided, then so have IIIII!”, “You leave me no CHOICE!”, “I am ACCURSED!”)
Right from the start, I was captivated by Bujold’s beauty and graceful presence. In the beginning, she portrays Anne in a cheeky, mischievous, yet slightly naive way that makes her the shining light of the scenes. However, she is never one-note, always hinting a slightly manipulative and cunning side of the character (which we will see in full force later). Bujold always suggests that Boleyn is a very complex character that you can never fully comprehend, despite her playful demeanor. The aggressive side of Boleyn is revealed in full force when Henry starts preying on her, and she starts insulting him and declaring that she will never fall for his trap. I was impressed by how naturally Bujold showed this transition of the character, balancing the aggressiveness and delicateness perfectly. There is also a certain arrogance and stubborness to the character that I found charming, and her playing “hard to get” certainly achieved the intended effect on me as a viewer. She plays the manipulative side of Anne very well, such as when she tries to find a way to legitimize her marriage to Henry.
Her crumbling marriage to Henry dominates the second half of her performance. While I found Bujold entertaining in these scenes, it does become a bit static after a while. Her anger towards Henry is well played, especially when he starts eyeing Jane Seymour. There are a few flashes of brilliance here and there; her devastation at losing her baby was superbly acted, and her determination to maintain her crown was well-done too. However, the highlight is her “thousand days monologue”, where she reflects upon her life and questions her love for Henry. It was very moving, despite how theatrical the text was.
There are a few moments here and there where the movie drags her down, mainly because the scenes are so over-the-top. The “Bastards. They will be bastards” scene comes across as really unnatural because of the way it is written, and it doesn’t help that Burton is really fake there too. Yet strangely enough, I think Bujold holds her own. She handles those scenes well, but I do think they hold her back a little too. The same goes for the final “MY Elizabeth shall be queen” confrontation towards the end – the lines are so over-the-top that any actor would have failed, but I think Bujold gives them a lot of force and power, making them work instead (unlike Burton).
All in all, I actually really enjoyed this performance. I know it is not a popular one among bloggers nowadays, and while I don’t think it is a masterpiece, I find it very interesting. Well done would be the best way to describe it. 4/5.