The Honourable Rebel. (12A.)
Directed by Mike Fraser.
Starring Dorothea Myer-Bennett, Rachel Dale, Kenton Hall, Paul Albertson, George Savides, and Diana Rigg. 97 mins
The Honourable Rebel may represent a small landmark in cinema: the first example of the big screen equivalent of vanity publishing. I have no idea who put up the money for this film record of the life of Lady Elizabeth Montagu, but it feels like someone in the Montagu family has hired some of those film Johnnys to put together this bespoke heirloom.
Now Lady Elizabeth Montague certainly had an interesting life – trying her hand at repairing cars, acting, spying during WWII, music, working in films and bi-sexuality – and met a lot of interesting people all of which she related in her memoir, a 600 page that is still in wait of its first reader review on Amazon. The film version mixes dramatic recreations with archive footage and interviews with surviving family members and is tied together by a narration by Diana Rigg. The small problem is that absolutely nothing happens. The film starts with her kicking up a scene at a Nazi embassy in 1938, indignant in equal part about their treatment of the Jews and that even she is expected to have a visa: “I'm a British subject. That's all you need to know.”As you watch the scenes about her early years you assume that it is setting the scene for her brave exploits during the war but after a perilous trip through France to Switzerland all her spying amounts to is a bit of translation. I'm sure she must have been in quite a bit of danger but everywhere she goes war she meets old friends who are delighted to meet her and something “arranged through my connections” either resolves or organises each anecdote.
The Honourable Rebel is a dreadful film, but an appropriately bad film: it really gets its subject. Before Facebook and social media only the aristocracy could afford to be this self obsessed and self absorbed, and the film captures their belief that everything happens and every thought that comes into their head is of great importance. We can all live that delusion now, but only the aristocracy can get it a cinema release. You can tell the Tories are back in power.