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DVD Review: The Rise and Fall of Margaret Thatcher

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Margaret Thatcher was a very complicated woman. She could also be quite tough, as her nickname The Iron Lady of Britain attests. Love her or hate her though, as Prime Minister she left her mark on England like nobody since Churchill. The Rise And Fall of Margaret Thatcher is a BBC production which has just been released to DVD. In the three films that make up the two-disc set, we meet this extraordinary woman in a variety of situations. One thing that remains a constant is her resolve to bend the world to her point of view, no matter what the consequences.

The first film, The Long Walk To Finchley reveals the ambitious young conservative on her way to winning a seat in Parliament. It was a ten-year process, in which she was confronted with every foul remnant of the venerable old boys club, yet Thatcher persevered. The movie “imagines” what actually went on behind the scenes during these years, but it is unlikely that any of the events depicted will make her flinch. She is shown to be a more than capable politician, who took it upon herself to break the glass ceiling of Parliament with her election in 1959.

The second installment in the trilogy is The Falklands Play. We are now in 1982, Margaret Thatcher is England’s Prime Minister, and Argentina have become belligerent over the Falkland Islands. Although Mrs. Thatcher had faced a number of crises over the years, the situation in the Falklands was by far the most significant.

The war was between Great Britain and Argentina over this small group of islands in the South Atlantic. To the rest of the world, the conflict seemed trivial, for the islands constituted a very tiny portion of land, and were thousands of miles away from the U.K. Thatcher viewed things differently. She still believed in the British Empire, and that this was a direct threat against it. Her pursuit of the war was seen by many as foolish gesture meant to restore the glory of England to a past that was gone forever.

Margaret picks up the story in 1990, and times had clearly changed again. Mrs. Thatcher is seen a Cold War relic, as the world is moving forward with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. She is also depicted as the leader of the rich and powerful, intent on maintaining their position. When challenged by Michael Heseltine for leadership of the party, Thatcher won – but by a small enough margin to force a second election. After consultations with various advisors and the like, and even the Queen, Margaret Thatcher decided to resign from 10 Downing Street. Rather than leave politics altogether, Thatcher served two years in her old role of MP of Finchley. In 1992 she retired from government service for good, and joined the private sector.

The Rise And Fall Of Margaret Thatcher is an excellent production, which benefits greatly from the decision to tell the story in three separate films. The actresses who portray the Prime Minister do a superb job of capturing her at each stage of her life. For example, Andrea Riseborough captures the ambitious, flirtatious, and even sexy former Margaret Richards in The Long Walk To Finchley.

Patricia Hodge perfectly embodies the Iron Lady phase of Thatcher’s career in The Falklands Play. There is not a trace of self doubt in the Prime Minister at this point, as Hodge methodically renders her. As Mrs. Thatcher in Margaret, Lindsey Duncan has perhaps the most difficult role. With her glory years clearly over, the former Iron Lady has an enormous amount of English pride to swallow. Duncan brings a bittersweet toughness to Thatcher, who knows exactly what is going on, yet dons a brave face to get through it.

There is no question that Margaret Thatcher was a polarizing figure in British politics, and that she will not soon be forgotten. The Rise And Fall Of Margret Thatcher is an even-handed portrayal of this most intriguing Iron Lady.

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