Bohemian Rhapsody, one of the hit songs of the popular twentieth century much loved rock band Queen, changes in style, tone and tempo throughout, just like the movie of the same name.
It shines a spotlight on the evolving outstanding performance art of the lead singer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), a young man busy chasing a dream, one born from his exposure to the rapid cultural change overtaking the world of his time.
Art is certainly at the forefront of the totally amazing, perhaps perfect performance by Rami Malek, so convincing as Freddie Mercury.
Born Zoroastrian by faith into a close-knit family whose roots were in India, when they came to live England from Zanzibar he changed his name from Farrokh Bulsara to Freddie Mercury.
He wanted to appeal to a broader audience base – he had dreams and plans.
We are the Champions of the World and all the other memorable songs by Queen, brought back many memories for me of what it was like when they were not only taking the popular music industry by storm, but also inspiring others to follow their lead. I found myself completely lost in that moment in time.
Love, tragedy, joy are highlights of the life the man who was a true misfit in society and it was also about timing; about Freddie Mercury being in the right place at the right time to encounter three other men, all of whom were not only geniuses in their own right, but also misfits too.
Brian May (lead guitar, vocals) played by Gwilym Lee, Roger Taylor (drums, vocals) by Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazello as John Deacon (bass guitar) together with the very brash Freddie, formed a collaboration of sorts that worked brilliantly artistically, if not so easily, personally.
Queen appealed to all the other misfits of whom there were many, including me. As Freddie notes, they also appealed to the ‘outcasts’ right at the back of the room, who didn’t belong… so they gave them Queen, hoping they would become a fearless family together forever.
Prancing on stage in his Harlequin costume or in his white singlet, Freddie certainly reflected he didn’t belong to the conservative based ‘normal’ society or family of his day, including his own. He was all about bringing on the future through performance art, which gave him a meaningful platform to deliver his own ‘News of the World’.
Brian May’s “We Will Rock You” brought audiences all over the world to their feet, stomping and clapping in tune.
Nearly rejected because of his overbite, Freddie had four extra teeth at the back of his mouth, which pushed his front teeth forward.
Throughout his life he worried it was a possibility removing them would affect his four octave range singing voice.
On a daily basis, we could say his best friends were his cats – Dorothy, Tiffany, Tom, Jerry, Delilah, Goliath, Lily, Miko, Oscar and Romeo were his family.
When he became successful, each gained a bedroom of their own in his new mansion and when Freddie was on the road he would often ring them just to say hello.
This movie is predominantly about the band and their music, which has become synonymous with their greatness. This became clear when they played during the 1985 Live Aid Concert founded by Rob Geldof (b.1951).
According to the NY Times it didn’t cater to the curiosity of those who would preferred to have a ‘behind-closed-doors insight into a deeply private, complicated, internationally beloved superstar’.
Interestingly, my take on this is that it did to a point, although in a subtle way, which is in accordance with the social norms of his day. People didn’t talk frankly about their personal lives or their sexuality as they do today and to do so at the time, would have been an anachronism.
For someone who perhaps identified as being either homosexual or bi-sexual, it was more than difficult and for Freddie Mercury as a new-born celebrity, it was more than challenging. He needed people around him who would safeguard his right to a private life.
Most of the time however, that did not happen, as is evidenced in the film when his so-called friend and Manager Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) presumes to speak for Freddie without consulting with him, on matters important in his life.
When Freddie is forced to let him go, the first thing his ‘so-called former friend’ does is to go on television and give a tell all interview. True friends do not ever behave that way.
Freddie Mercury is recorded as saying about Bohemian Rhapsody is “… one of those songs which has such a fantasy feel about it. I think people should just listen to it, think about it, and then make up their own minds as to what it says to them… it… didn’t just come out of thin air. I did a bit of research although it was tongue-in-cheek and mock opera”.
Opera is the music of love and life and in this I was delighted when they depict Freddie in the movie as enjoying opera arias at home. He knew what great music was all about in every age, including his own.
I’ve taken my bows
And my curtain calls
You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it
I thank you all
Rami Malek 5/5
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018