Many would agree that this new film on the 70s' British rock band Queen is an intimate look into the life of its lead vocalist – Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Bulsara), while also telling the story of the band itself. There were no detailed sneak peeks into the personal lives of the other members unlike that of Mercury. Even advertised as "The Only thing more extraordinary than their music is his story," the film's trailer had kept people wondering how the singer would be portrayed. The idea to put Freddie in the limelight does justify the general practice of highlighting the lead singer. But most importantly, the life of a world famous rock singer, who was bisexual, was something that his fans would have really wanted to know.
In the feature film, it is clear that Mercury had a turbulent love life which had even affected the band's career to some extent. Rather than dwell on the story, we take a closer look at the cinematography and the script of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. In the context of creating the specific ambience of London in the 70s, many of the scenes involved indoor sets, but they have been carefully conceived to give an accurate feel of those heady times.
The way Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) meet Mercury for the first time and talk to each other in their peculiar musicians' tongue, helps us understand the youth culture of that era. In the meantime, that particular script also gives us an idea of how they were extroverts who had genuine appreciation of each other's talents. Having said that, there are instances where the actor Rami Malek who plays Freddie, has reportedly told the media that he found Mercury to be 'a very shy and at times, a lonely human being'. It is quite apparent that Malek has done intense research on Mercury's character.
When the band heads off to Rockfield farm and records the film's (also the album’s) title track – a recording musician, who is watching the film will admire the subtle depiction of all the creative endeavors of music production. The emotions and intelligence that gets involved during this process is easily understood – making this a very diligent film production. The part where Mercury starts to supervise the recording of the guitars and vocals, and cleverly tricks drummer Roger Taylor into singing the chorus multiple times – seems ingenious. By saying that the takes did not work and then eventually asking the sound engineer to combine all the tracks is something that creates a phenomenal sound which showcases the genius of Freddie!
Following their dispute with EMI Records, the 80s theme based animated scenes depict the band's world tour and the popularity of Bohemian Rhapsody. The band's shows are clearly depicted to have been hugely popular with audiences. The way the edits progress through the different scenes of the audiences and the musicians are uplifting too. Color corrections during these scenes have been done wisely and they do bring out the atmosphere of the events accurately. Likewise, the ambience backstage is also cleverly done with relevant sets and acts by the casts – including those as crewmembers.
The set’s themes change completely when Freddie reaches his breaking point with his band mates. This is a time when all of them are established in their musical career as members of an internationally famous band. They now live in fancy, well-furnished houses and each has developed his own distinctive attitude. As Freddie is seen to be embarking on a solo project, the sets change altogether. This is a contrast to the studio setup of Mountain Studios – owned by the band back in the day. Here, Mercury is seen with new musicians. These performers are shown to be less creative in their efforts while producing the music than the singer would like them to be. In fact, the level of frustration that he undergoes during this part in his career can be felt strongly. His manager Paul Penter (Alan Leech) – who keeps on rejecting the calls made by his producer and his band members – maintains a good act as a perpetrator and Mercury's lover at the same time. In fact, the scenes that involve Freddie's romance with his girlfriend Mary (Lucy Boynton) and later on with Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker) are shown abruptly without any makeovers.
The climax of the film would be the scene where Mary visits Freddie and criticizes his then fellow companions. This is shown as the threshold for Mercury to reach a point of self-realization. He is also told about the Live Aid concert and how Paul had kept him from knowing about it. Mercury is now seen to be completely able to understand the reason why he mistook his sexuality over his feelings. This scene that takes place right outside the studio in Munich, where he is recording, has a dull, rainy ambience. Hence the context suits the theme; very good script here too.
The scenes that follow include Freddie's visits to the hospital. This is the part when he comes to realize he has AIDS. The mood of the scenes at this point in the film is quite in contrast to what was shown previously. It is hard to imagine that Freddie would have taken this confession naturally and without being too emotional.
The final scene of the film ends with the Live Aid concert. The filming has been done meticulously as it depicts all of the nuances of the actual show. The way the camera pans from behind the tens of thousands of people in the arena from the stage– as if shot by a drone is something that a lot of people in the audience admired, and talked about afterwards. Although there is a photograph of the band in their official album cover booklet of "Queen’s Greatest Hits 2"on a helicopter – arriving at the venue and hovering right over the audience – it does not feature in the film. This does not matter much with the emotional timeline of the film though.
Despite a noticeable lack of dramatic background score, the film has only a few flaws in terms of cinematography. This is partly due to the inclusion of much of Queen's songs throughout the film. Overall, “Bohemian Rhapsody” not only tells the story of Mercury in its entirety, but also that of the other band members and their relation with their flamboyant lead singer. Overall, it’s a good film, well worth watching.