*SPOILERS will follow.*
“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide/ No escape from reality” is the start of Bohemian Rhapsody. In the opening scene we hear the sound of drums, a lively audience, cats are fed, a microphone is showed and a picture of Marlene Dietrich on the wall, glimpses of a man’s vulture, Mercury (Rami Malek) getting ready for Live Aid performance 1985. The script follows Mercury’s way into the night when he meets Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Meddows-Taylor (Ben Hardy), before they become Queen. Bryan Singer turns the song Bohemian Rhapsody into his canvas to present the story of Queen, a band that revolutionised the musical world. The plot goes from Queen first meeting with manager John Reid (Aidan Gillen) in which they define themselves as ‘the band who doesn’t act like they know what they’re doing but, as the band who belongs to the people’. The plot untwists in a mind-boggling way. As the story unfolds, it all seems to burst into a vibrant colourful blur. It goes from Mercury’s relationship with Mary Austin, to the eccentric style and queer parties; it takes us into Mercury’s sexual life and how these play a big role in Mercury’s character and the band. Freddie Mercury is portrayed as this magnet, who attracts all sorts of extravagances and experiences, while being an experimentalist affecting everyone who gets involved with him.
The question, ‘Who am I?’ resonates throughout the film and becomes an important theme of identity. It is a question which we can all easily relate to. Bohemian Rhapsody picks up on the meaning behind the original song lyrics of the same name and projects them onto the screen. Just like the start of the song, the beginning of the film foresees the end. Director Bryan Singer intertwines both concepts of one’s identity and the sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves in a clever way. He puts Mercury at the centre of the plot as the essential part of what made Queen possible. “Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matters to me”, repeats itself throughout the song and the same concept is used by Singer to represent brotherhood at the heart of Queen. “Nothing really matters” until you find out who you are is the motto of this film. Even at the end, when Mercury finds out he is dying, he still wants to continue to make music and be himself. When Mercury dresses up as a king, Singer is presenting him as the “hysterical queen” that he is. Malek outrageously plays Mercury, as an individual who constantly wants to experience life to the fullest, but who at the same time feels lost, lonely and insecure. Mercury’s intense personality is something he cannot quite let go of, those bad habits make him who he is. Just like the different musical arrangements and harmonies in the song, the script shares from the same layout. The film is successful in portraying Mercury and Queen as an explosion of multiple different harmonies, until they finally define themselves.
Bohemian Rhapsody is not only about Freddie Mercury, but about how Mercury would not be Freddie without Queen and vice versa. We see Mercury as this central pillar which sustains the band, but also the lives of everyone around him. When that pillar breaks, everything else falls apart. Towards the end, Freddie wants to take a break from the band and invests on a solo career. At this point, he meets Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker). Hutton says to him “Come and find me when you decide to like yourself”. We suddenly realise that Mercury had lost track of his life and has no idea where the spiral of drugs and sexual exaggerations is taking him. The audience is not looking at Freddie Mercury anymore, but at Farrokh Bulsara, the Parsi whose dreams of becoming a professional performer had taken the best of him. Malek knows how to act the human behind Mercury. He is able to combine both, the eccentricity of Mercury with his vulnerable side without turning the role into a perfect cliché. This is the moment in which we connect with Mercury hence Queen. For the first time, we see Freddie Mercury leaving his artistic confidence and authenticity to be vulnerable. When finally the turmoil of bohemian life is over, Mercury embraces who he is. When he realises that he cannot make himself up without Queen, he decides to go back to the band and Queen have the moment of their lives at Aid Live performance in Wembley.
Overall, we should not go inside the cinema expecting to watch a complete biography of Queen. This does not happen. For we are rather left with an insight on what the concept of Queen is. Bryan Singer focuses on the concept of family and brotherhood in Queen. That is the essence behind what makes them legendary. We can perfectly take it from the title, as it hints at us what we should indeed expect. The film could have been called ‘Queen: A Star is Born’ or ‘Queen a Live Redemption’ but, instead we are left with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ as Queen’s Golden Age of their life and career. The film is structured in a way that shows the typical challenges and mischiefs of a family. Families have joyful moments, sad moments, they break up to make up again. In spite of everything that was made possible to convey the film’s principle, it lacks some important parts in Mercury’s life. Perhaps, it should have gone into Freddie and Jim’s relationship in more depth. Perhaps, it should have explained how Freddie as a graphic designer came up with the symbol for Queen. Or even when Mercury takes a break from the band, we are left wondering the reasons behind this sudden break up. However, that is not the point of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. We do not come into the room to watch the degradation and fall apart of a legend. But we do go inside, because we want to remember Queen. Director, Bryan Singer and screenwriter, Anthony McCarten focus on the most charismatic moment of the band’s career to preserve the authenticity of Queen.