Bohemian Rhapsody – glorious yet shallow flattery

Anyone with a true passion for film would say that a great film stays with you long after you’ve seen it. In one way or the other. By that token I consider Bohemian Rhapsody a great film. However, it is not a great film from a cinematic, or even storytelling point of view. There are a few carefully chosen angles and camera pans that did make me stop and admire its cinematography.  It is a well executed film, but one would struggle to find more than two truly memorable scenes which would resonate with both film lovers and fans of the band alike.

What the film does well is preserve the legend of Freddie Mercury, and there’s no doubt as to why that is. Brian May and Roger Taylor made sure that everyone attached to the project played it safe and showed respect to the source material. This might not have been the best idea. I couldn’t help wonder what the film would have been like if it had been directed by a true fan of the band and of Freddie. True fans would accept the darkness with the light, champion it and stylise it. That light does shine through in this production,or part of it. It cannot be kept away, for Freddie’s light shone very bright indeed, a force as great as rock music itself. Fortunately for us viewers, Rami Malek managed to capture a glimpse of that light and show it to the world. It left us wanting more. It left me wanting to discover more about Freddie’s extraordinary talent and his controversial life. Hence, weeks after having seen the film, it is still with me. I find myself wanting to watch it again, to see if any hints, innuendos or references to the musical genius might have been missed. On first viewing one feels they are shown a show reel, a best of of a best of. It is an ordinary presentation of an  extraordinary rock’n roll band. We all know from the very beginning that the story and more importantly the music was anything but ordinary. We are still waiting for the goosebumps we know good cinema undoubtely give.

What the film failed to capture, whilst busying itself with being as PG and PC as possible, was both the essence of the band’s musical legacy and the complexity of Freddie Mercury’s tumoultuous life. We can’t tell for sure which film Bryan Singer would have ended up making, had he finished the production. Fans of both the band and cinema itself would want either one of those, not both crammed up into one, without doing justice to either. The source material is too vast, too sagaesque both in terms of music and the private lives of the musicians to be made into one film. As someone who has now researched their music extensively, it is my belief that Bohemian Rhapsody only manages to show a glimpse of the kaleidoscopic narrative that is represented by the two titanic entities: Queen and Freddie Mercury.