Catherine Parr, or the survivor of “Bluebeard” according to Karim Aïnouz

LE JEU DE LA REINE © Courtesy of Brouhaha Entertainment

Four years after winning the Un Certain Regard Award for A Vida Invisível (Invisible Life), Karim Aïnouz vies for the Palme d’Or for the first time. As in the past, he launched himself into the adaption of a novel, and the result is Firebrand, starring Alicia Vikander and Jude Law.

Catherine Parr occupied a special place in the court of Henry VIII. A war was raging when she was temporarily appointed regent during the military campaigns. This position provided her with the opportunity to exercise certain powers and spread the protestant principles she espoused. The king, upon returning from battle, condemned a friend of the queen to the stake for treason. Catherine thus found herself walking a tightrope, faced with a husband capable of the worst atrocities.

Firebrand is the story of Catherine Parr, the sixth and last wife of Henry VIII, who survived the king who would be the inspiration behind Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard). Before her, all the king’s marriages had failed. Worse, he had already killed two of his wives.

The film was inspired by Elizabeth Fremantle’s novel Queen’s Gambit, published in 2012. The British author paints a detailed picture of the troubled life of Catherine Parr at the Tudor court in a story of love and tyranny, manipulation, and power.

It’s not surprising to see Karim Aïnouz pulled towards this powerful historical figure, especially a woman. He thus continues his depiction of women who come in conflict with the social order, such as in A Vida Invisível (Invisible Life), a melodrama about the emancipation of two sisters. This time, he leaves Brazil to plunge into the world of 16th-century England, where he invites Alicia Vikander to portray a character determined to establish her influence.