The Iron Lady
The Iron Lady proves to be another triumph for British Cinema. Following the success of ‘The King’s Speech’, we are offered another helping of British cinematic sumptuousness.
Brought to us by the UK Film Council, Film 4 and Canal+. Director Phyllida Lloyd, attempts to portray the life of the longest serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher.
With a stellar cast, which includes Academy Award Winners, Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent, as well as fresh blood to the big screen, Harry Lloyd and Alexandra Roach.
The motion picture has become a Box Office success and a hit with the Critics. Oscar buzz engulfs the movie and its Star, Meryl Streep, has already garnered multiple nominations and most notably, a win at the Golden Globe Awards and an Academy Award nomination.
In Thatcher’s 11.5 years in office, she became a controversial figure who divided a nation and government. The movie also explores her stance against terrorism, sexism, class discrimination in politics as well as aspects of her personal life as a wife and mother.
Beautifully directed, the story unravels cleverly with masterful skill. Alternating between an aged Thatcher, who is seen struggling with the onset of Dementia, being tended to by a carer and her daughter, haunted by the presence of her deceased husband, struggling to keep a grip on her most prized possession, the fecundity of her mind.
We then are introduced to a young Margaret, played expertly by Roach. Here we become privy to the beginnings of what brought her into the world of politics. Eager to embody the inspiring words of her father and desperate to avoid the domestic life of her mother. Shunning criticism and working steadily through education and professional ranks, she dives headfirst into governmental representation.
We see how she met a young Dennis Thatcher, in him finding an understanding and supportive man, who would stand by his ambitious wife throughout his life. Here we become privy to the a close but often strained relationship between the two, impacted heavily by Margaret’s desire to lead Great Britain by the values she holds as gospel.
In the film there are a host of powerful scenes to which we are treated. A generous helping of powerful performances by Streep, that let us into mind and character of Thatcher. Sizzling displays, of Thatcher’s razor sharp wit, capable of splitting hairs. As well as poignant, melancholy moments, which humanise the Iron Lady herself.
However, beyond the superb Motion Picture, there lies a deeper story. One of the weight of responsibility, the power of the human spirit and the test it is, to stand by one’s principles.
Political figures, like all Celebrities, are somehow dehumanised by the general public. Definite labels are attached to them, opinions become are not tempered by humanitarian concern and violent emotions often are aroused. Margaret Thatcher was very much the marmite of politics. To an extent all public figures are, but never was this so true than with Thatcher. Some herald her as a thankless Hero, others as an obstinate, out dated, harpie.
However you view her, there are facts that cannot be denied.
She was largely accredited for; reviving a sluggish post war economy, safe guarding British sovereignty and currency from European proposals, playing a central role to ending the East/West divide and becoming the first lower middle class Conservative party leader/
I did not grow up in the 80’s. I did not have to live under her government. Retrospect is a funny friend.
However, I admire and applaud anyone who stands on principle. Who is able to absorb hatred and criticism, to do what is right. That is a leader. Thatcher, no doubt made many mistakes, was deficient in areas of her governance, but someone had to control the beast and tame it, then drive it to greener pastures.
The beast will hate you, struggle to understand your actions, it may even fight you, yet ultimately it will be glad once it is grazing.
Thatcher made a memorable speech when assuming office, calling it the ‘greatest honour’ and ‘responsibility’. Thatcher said she would ‘strive unceasingly, for ‘the things in which I believe.’ She did. Famously sleeping on no more than four or five hours daily. The core of her being was hard work, self reliance, doing rather than talking and adhering to principle. These are the values and qualities which when embodied in citizens, creates a great nation and society. This is what, perhaps rather unmercifully, she bulldozed to achieve.
‘You don’t grow richer by ordering another cheque book’, 1983 Conservative Press Conference Party conference. She knew how to make a pound stretch, she utilised the lessons she learned growing up as a working class woman, into economic policy making. Perhaps these are the reasons why Thatcher was uncooperative with Unions, whom she felt, were trying to hold the country ransom for personal gains, rather than encouraging their members to work hard in order to produce results. As she had worked in order to live, and expected others to as well.
One of the most controversial points in her career was the battle of the Falklands Islands. Thatcher was staunch in her stance to fight for the Islands, that they belong to the UK, and would so again, despite loses to the British Armed Forces. Eventually the operation for domination became a success for the UK, and a level of patriotism, unseen in a long time, was ignited across the country. In this situation, once again, Thatcher showed an unwillingness to bend or cave. This resulted in a renewal of her popularity. She quite famously said to Frost, when questioned about the sinking of the Argentine ship, the Belgrano, ‘I know it was right to sink her, I would do the same again’.
Thatcher proved she was not afraid of making difficult decisions, all the time realising the weight that came with doing so. Self assurance is something she exuded, and rightly so. Some called it stubbornness, but those with firm values often are described so.
‘Many are waiting for the U-Turn. I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.’ (1981 Conservative Party Conference)
‘One’s life must matter’, is a quote from the film script. Thatcher’s did. I wonder how many of us can say the same. She was driven to be more than a housewife, instead she became one of the biggest political icons of the 20th century. She came from a working class family to assume the highest office the country could bestow. For that I respect her. For that I love the Motion Picture and for that I felt compelled to write this Blog.
Zishaan ‘ZuZu’ Shafi