rom the outset I must state that the viewer mustn’t nitpick, but rather become immersed in the tales (as there are two) rather than looking for historical flaws. “The truth is subjective,” says Madonna of the romance between the twice-divorced Wallis Simpson and Edward Viii. “Everything I have to say about the Duke and Duchess [of Windsor] is the conclusion I came to from my research.”
Madonna has drawn a parallel between a modern-day Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) and her dream of an ideal romance – one where a partner is willing to give up absolutely everything for the sake of love and Wallis Simpson – the ultimate receptor of such love.
However, life hasn’t been easy for either one of them. Both have suffered at the hands of men they believed loved them – Wally is still trapped and her only means of escape is day-dreaming of Wallis’ life with Edward.
Madonna was (allegedly) enthralled by the idea of a man giving up the throne – the ultimate source of power. “What woman could inspire him to make such a great sacrifice?” she asks in the production notes. “I wanted to know about her.” And the more she researched the more she began to realise that there was sacrifice on both sides – Edward gave up the throne while Wallis lost her reputation, privacy and freedom.
It took Madonna two years to write the script and numerous interviews. Allegedly she papered an empty room with pictures from the auction catalogue and photos of the Duke and Duchess as she ‘wanted to soak up their energy’.
W.E., so entitled because of the way they signed their letters, comprises a series of vignettes between the past and the present (which is disconcerting at first) connected by the Sotheby’s Auction of the Windsors’ estate in 1998. As Wally browses through the items on display the interconnected stories come to the fore. (In an effort to create a realistic picture, Madonna managed to persuade the original Sotheby’s auctioneer to re-enact the part).
In fact, the movie could actually be described as a collage of events- past and present with emphasis on style, fashion and design... and here Madonna cannot be faulted. Wallis (Andrea Riseborough) has a wardrobe of 60 hand-made costumes (each recreated by the original couturiers as the originals are in museum displays) and 30 for Edward. And the same applies to the jewellery and the involvement of the Pierre Cardin craftsmen.
If I say any more it will spoil your cinematic journey. W.E. is well worth watching!