Queen of the Desert

Nicole Kidman and James Franco in Queen of the Desert
Nicole Kidman and James Franco in Queen of the Desert

Here’s what happens when a director of passion and imagination thinks of an intriguing project and finds himself lumbered with an expensive production full of name players and compromise.

The director in this case is none other than Werner Herzog, he of Aguirre, the Wrath of God and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, and his subject is Gertrude Bell, traveller, writer, possible spy and Arabian expert.

With Nicole Kidman playing her and James Franco and Damian Lewis as her would-be lovers, let alone Robert Pattinson as T.E.Lawrence ( cue a roar of laughter from a knowing Berlin audience) the result is a lumbering and often stodgy historical epic in which the camels, dromedaries and sand dunes are the most attractive components.

Kidman does her best to suggest the woman Bedouins adored and Arabs in general admired but it is often a bit of a frozen performance despite the heat of the desert. Franco, Lewis and Pattinson do very decently, but in this kind of context there is a limit to their endeavours, half smothered as they are by swirling inspirational music.