More than 72 hours passed since I watched “Bohemian Rhapsody’ the movie and I still find all kinds of excuses to postpone writing this article even though I experienced a powerful urge to do so by the end of the movie. I wanted to let it go, to consume its energy, but it seems endless. Maybe I have to write it down and let it out.
Here, in Romania, its premiere was on the 31st of October but even if I was so eager to watch it, I avoided the crowd of that particular day, and of the weekend’s as well. So, Monday, after noon was the perfect day and hour to go and take a seat in an almost empty cinema hall. There might have been 12 or even less people scattered around me. It seemed quite a blessing to enjoy such a private space for such a greatly expected movie.
I loved Queen since I first heard this exact album, ‘A Night at the Opera’. I was 12 and this precious vinyl disc had been given to me by my best friend. She and her family were going to emigrate to US, a dream many of us here had, so they had to leave behind many of their beloved things. 1979 was announcing the worst to come in the ’80. “Capitalist music” was still aired in ‘79, not too much, and very few things from behind the iron curtain could be found in the communist media of that time. We were lucky if we could listen the Billboard 100 on Radio Free Europe. On one hand lucky, but on the other, this was a very dangerous action.
I think I’ve listened this album hundreds of times. I really loved the impressive music and the super impressive voice of Freddie Mercury. Whatever his voice would do, it had something really unique, an essence from out of this world, yet very for this world. Stamped also with an emotional value, ‘A Night at the Opera’ was the first non-classical album I had listened more than once up till that age. Maybe it was because I had a classical music background (I was still studying in a music school), the structure of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ made me think differently about “rock music”. Beyond the phenomenal structure of the work, I was fascinated by the lyrics, as well. There is a story beneath or intertwined in any kind of music, a story the composer tells and a story the listener’s building while listening, but here I was confronted with a text that seemed so… unexpected, yet, somehow, expected. “Is this the real life? The monstrosity of this world .. I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all… carry on, nothing really matters… nobody loves me”… thoughts I was already carrying in my 12 year-old mind. So, it was quite natural to get attached to what this voice was sending out and surely natural for million others.
The first two songs I learned and was singing out loud or in my mind were ‘Love of My Life’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. But ‘Death on Two Legs’ was also a fantastic piece of music. Suddenly, the electric guitar seemed a super cello and violin altogether, while the man playing just one instrument, a genius. The vocal arrangements, the choirs were so “classical”, and everything was suddenly not disturbing to my ear used to listen to the sound of classical instruments. Of course, whenever piano was involved, I felt so at ease and delighted. Indeed, the entire idea of the album respected its title – an opera with a bit more acts than usual, and shorter in length, but what a composition!
I am not a fan. I mean, I’ve never been a fan at all, at least not as it is generally defined by the actions of people that like an artist and they call themselves fans. I wasn’t raised in this kind of fan-culture. So, I never learned or wanted to learn about the ‘person’ behind the creation. The human personality of his/her/their artistic performance, creation or piece of art was clearly not an object of interest for me. Their private life was something that I didn’t need to read or know about. What I loved was right there, displayed by creation itself. Somehow, even from that age I knew the human behind the Artist could be quite different or at least, not a god simply because being a human we are limited, while a god is unlimited. Yet, the Artist, the spirit that manifests itself in such rare occasions through certain rare humans, shines forth and conquers billions of hearts by its pure radiance. That is the god I love when I recognize its presence in an artist and that is flawless. But, not any star, made up by producers, by this “industry”, is an Artist.
I had no idea and never searched about Freddie’s private life. I learned about his bisexuality only after his departure. But, a genius doesn’t live too much, anyway. And the empty space or the big hole in the fabric of humanity that remains after such departure can’t be “replaced”. I remember how I cried when I heard the news and how I could not forget the emptiness I felt inside me for many weeks after. I never had the chance to physically be in the same space with Freddie Mercury, but he was much closer to my heart than many other people with whom I might have spent hours in the same space. And, yes, that verse from ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, “Mama, just killed a man/ Put a gun against his head/ pulled the trigger/now he’s dead” it suddenly made a lot more sense to me. It was not just the “ordinary” man he had to “kill” in order to become The Freddie Mercury, but any tradition that would have limited his essence’unfolding. An early “innuendo” to “surrender your ego, to be free”, be free to yourself”, a kind of life-statement I must have not so deeply understood when I first fell in love with this masterpiece.
Maybe I had a few expectations from this movie, the main one being my wish to see the genius of Mercury- the Artist, and the genius of the entire band in action. I hoped I could see the process behind the stage even more than it has been presented, to see what was going on before the birth of such masterpieces. I knew for sure that the human being had to have been struggling with loneliness, depression, with the so destructive desire to be loved for his entirety, for what he was as a whole, because the Artist could not exist unless there was a human to embody. I knew the pressure an artist like him had to survive to. And this is what no one can really understand unless it has been a fact in their life, either going through this experience directly or at least indirectly, as a companion. But he seemed to be so strong, the power of love inside of him was bursting out in every song he sang. But yes, not all people could know these things, could even imagine this side of the story. So, it could be quite good that these aspects were presented in this movie.
I did appreciate the composition Rami Malek created around this aspect of Freddie – the weird, not understandable for “normal” people struggle to be in this world, even though he might have felt he really didn’t belong in this place. The moments of diving into a different realm while looking for an answer, a decision, the moments when he felt hurt but also knew there was no way others could really understand how they hurt him, moments of knowing there was not too much he could ask from others and he had to deal alone with everything. Rami Malek was good in such moments. Sliding into a long moment of silence before a decision had to be made, into a clearly different space than the present one, without seeming crazy… allowing us to perceive also the kindness and goodness of a soul… yes, these things were beautifully conveyed.
On stage, on the other hand, everything seemed… little. I was expecting to see a sparkling shining of the main character on stage, under the powerful stage lights. I don’t know if what I watched was a poor copy of the movie, but lights and colours seemed dim for almost the entire movie. Few exceptions, like the outdoor scene from the Live Aid and… I can’t remember now another one. That almost sepia shade (of time, maybe), the intention to subtly impress the idea of the sadness this character was dealing with, to emphasis this aspect that was less known by the audience?… yes, this is quite so very possible for such a person, to radiate so great light for the audience and to struggle in darkness when not being on stage. I don’t know if these were tools to underline this idea or not, options consciously made by the director and the cinematography director. I couldn’t figure out what were this movie’s intentions. But I couldn’t perceive the glamorous attitude, the extraordinary appearance of Freddie on stage. This was my feeling while watching the movie. On the other hand, I realize now that it was only my stupid expectation. I was expecting to see the same energy and power in every gesture, in every movement, something that belonged to Freddie. That kind of burning his body seemed to experience, singing with all his cells, with all fibers of his body vibrating on the frequencies of the sounds… But, hey, that’s not possible. Expectations and their strong influence upon the state of the “perceiver”, upon the context… later on influencing the reasoning mind, pushing it into the judgmental state. No one can be Freddie! But, I really think not only Rami Malek but all actors did a great job. Quite a great job!
I can’t remember if there is a certain moment of crisis in the movie, one that could have pushed Freddie to decide that he can’t bear the burden any longer. In reality, long before he accepted the idea of going for a solo album, it was Taylor’s album that has been released, if not two albums … The movie shows us a different story, though, making us think that Freddie betrayed the “family” willing to record a solo album, far from home. Wouldn’t be possible that Taylor’s album and probably other frictions between them to have been created such a moment for a deeper crisis for Freddie?
Cause no matter how many people would have surrounded him, ones that might have called themselves friends, there was definitely a feeling that kept eating him alive. Of course, I can’t possibly know what happened for real, only Freddie knows that, but such a crisis could have been the moment he plunged into the pool of extremes, defying everything, from death to that sadness, that feeling of not belonging, of not being loved as he wanted to feel love. “You think you know me, but you don’t know me, Paul.” The only person that really knew Freddie was his wife, the love of his life, states the movie. And this might have been true, as well.
When I cried learning about Freddie’s departure from this planet, and like me I guess there have been millions, it was mainly out of pity for us all. Because we loved his voice, his music, and the energy that he was displaying and consciously or unconsciously but generously sharing with the entire audience, didn’t matter if physically present in a hall, or just listening an album, . That energy traversed all space, had no limit, impregnated the entire universe. That was connecting all people, of all colours, of all nations, of all ages. That was a way to gather people in one high and coherent state of vibration.
But, there was something else that struck me in this movie. I can’t know for sure if picking up this subject out of the entire movie was intended to be this way, but, yes, I was struck by “Paul”. I don’t know if the director and script writer and Brian May and Roger Taylor wanted to subtly explain what they felt it has been the cause of their friend’s “fall”, or they did it out of an not-admitted feeling of guilt which usually stays well-hidden, under our very best intentions. I, again, don’t know what was the purpose of this movie, but I know for sure that people like “Paul” exist. I know their love is poison, I know they are like spiders, building a cobweb around the “object” of their obsessive desire to prove their greatness out of their huge frustration, because that is not love but pure obsession born out of a hidden and long suffering. I know they can infiltrate the mind and have the intelligence to do so not only to their victim, but to all other minds around it, to anyone that might be interested in their “victim”. And I know they are so committed that they would rather see their “loved one” dead than being freed from their cobweb. (“too much love will kill you”) I also know I couldn’t refrain my gut from reacting when, at the end of the Live Aid concert, we are shown again the producer that rejected the album ‘A Night at the Opera’ some 10 or more years before. The connection between the two characters, Paul and that producer, struck me. So, my personal reaction remained stuck with those two characters and it took time to clean myself from that freezing emotion.
I don’t know if Freddie Mercury would like this movie, but… “nothing really matters” to him at the end of the day. And as long as he didn’t think of writing his thoughts down, writing the facts from his own perspective, the rest is just… other people’s perception and perspective, interpretations of facts, others thoughts about him. Actually, he wrote some of his own thoughts and feelings in his songs, he spoke some in a few interviews. If he left his life being happy and not feeling any regrets or asking what would remain after him, what would the band be without him… To me, Queen doesn’t exist anymore, not as a live band. And I so much appreciate John Deacon’s decision and attitude. Queen, or better said none of the other members of the band would have known this kind of success without Freddie Mercury. Yes, without great instrument players and musicians, Freddie Mercury could not have exposed his gift, not alone, but he was born to tear apart limits and rise hearts up, he was born to be the king of the Queen or quite the “only one hysterical Queen” in the band. Maybe that’s why it might have been quite difficult for him, as a man, to survive this world and its “normality”. And if his colleagues could not really understand him or accept him as he was, they surely enjoyed the success. After all, the movie states they were a family. Usually, in a family people have to care for each other. And it seems they did care for one another whenever possible.
I am glad I watched this movie. It cleared some of my thoughts and brought new decisions in my mind. I never read any critique or recommendation for anything, movie, theater play, book, but I might watch the trailer for a movie and read the category under it’s filed. (Of course, why would I want to see a horror movie? What good can that do to me?) I watched this movie’s trailer, and this is how most of my expectations were born. “The only thing more extraordinary than their music is his story.” announces the trailer. So, this should have been the purpose of this movie. How can anyone summarize a life in a 2-hour story? Very difficult, if not impossible, cause there is always a choice to be made, opting to show a thing and not another, when details or the little things might show nuances so very important to the description of a life-time. But when this story is not made by the one that lived that life, what we see is an outside perspective, an interpretation of others upon one’s life. It is how others saw and understood your life, but not your own.
Right now, before starting this last paragraph, I felt like reading a few critiques. I simply thought I might understand more from others. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t feel happy for this movie, what was shadowing my perception. Maybe I’ve missed something. Having opinions and mostly judging, either a movie or anything else or anyone, places us in sides of an invisible constant warzone that mangles our humanity. Learning from anything, including this movie that you might reject is learning about yourself and the things you want to keep hidden from your own conscience. Watching this movie, I have learned some important things for myself. The sparkling shining of Freddie Mercury will continue to light long after this movie might be forgotten. I will love Queen all my life, “till the end of time”. Yet, “Who wants to live forever?”
Peace to all!
Picture set as featured image from foxmovies.com