The Emperor's Wife

The Emperor's Wife

In the land of 1001 nights, after six happy years of marriage, the beloved Empress hasn't given birth to an heir. Now, in a secret wing of the Imperial Palace, an innocent virgin is being prepared to replace THE EMPEROR'S WIFE.

In the land of 1001 nights the law dictates that the Emperor must take a new wife if his current Empress does not bear a son within seven years of marriage. On the night of their sixth wedding anniversary, the Emperor receives a visit from the Chamberlain, his loyal servant and confidant, and the two men begin the covert operation to find and prepare a virgin candidate who might become the new Emperor's Wife.

The young candidate, Sabah, is secretly transported into an isolated wing of the Imperial Palace. In this prison of fairytale rooms furnished with Imperial gifts, Sabah is tutored by the Imperial Masters and spied upon through periscopes in secret corridors by the Emperor. If the current Empress conceives a child within the next year, everyone in this secret wing must be executed.

Sabah's violent protests nearly sabotage the entire operation. The Chamberlain, falling in love with Sabah, enters the secret wing to win her affection. Quite a sacrifice: in order to safeguard Sabah's virginity, any man entering the secret wing must become a eunuch!

The Chamberlain convinces Sabah to accept her upcoming role as the new Empress, but she remains extremely unhappy, longing for her boyfriend left behind. Demonstrating his love and shift of loyalty, the Chamberlain sends for the boy. The young lovers spend one night together which proves to be sufficient for Sabah to become pregnant!

Meanwhile, in the main wing of the palace, the present Empress' suspicion leads her to discover the secret wing. The Chamberlain and Sabah try and flee, but get caught by the Imperial Guards.

The Chamberlain awaits his court martial not knowing whether Sabah - and the child inside her - has survived. Many months pass. On the day of his execution, his death sentence is changed..

Description of Character:

Distinguished, utterly loyal to his Emperor
Emotionally intense, yet meanwhile radiating the immemorial grace of royalty. Deeply moved inside, but outwardly obedient to protocol. Eventually his loyalty begins to shift from the Emperor to Sabah as he falls in love for the first time in his life.

Born into power
A wise ruler over a vast country as well as a loving husband to the present Empress. Experience taught him that an enduring monarch is a ruthless one. His position is constantly threatened by an on-going war while his marriage is currently being threatened by the laws of his empire. Dependent upon his right-hand man, the Chamberlain.

A classic beauty
The Empress, born into the education that Sabah is now undergoing, is well-bred and sophisticated. She was always the perfect wife for the Emperor. Unaware of the law, which dictates she will be replaced if
she doesn't provide an heir, it is her biological clock, which has made her spiteful, restless and quite temperamental.

Beautiful innocence, which can explode to fiery rage
She comes from an unspoilt, rural, very nearly "uncivilised" background of run-down nobility. Suddenly imprisoned in lush yet stuffy surroundings, the artificiality of the Secret Imperial Wing speeds her development from a natural, childish innocent into an intuitive, strongwilled woman. Sabah transforms from pristine virgin to powerful mother.

THE EMPEROR'S WIFE is the tragic love story of an imprisoned bride and her personal tutor who offers his manhood for her and the groom. The theme is classical melodrama: self-sacrifice in love, but with a happy ending. THE EMPEROR'S WIFE does not take place in any particular time or place; our design team will in fact create a richly layered universe. Since the story is inspired by the life of Suraya of Persia, the court of Istanbul in the 1920's is a visual reference: traditional Eastern costumes and bellydancers combined with Parisian haute couture. Or think of the wealthy monarchy of Brunei, on the north coast of Borneo. When Tina Turner opened her latest world tour in the sultan's palace, all of her crew had to sign a contract to promise that they will never tell the outside world of any of the palace's luxury inside...
Some may be drawn to see THE EMPEROR'S WIFE as a fairytale, appealing to secret wishes within each of us. But, as we all know, at the basis of every fairytale is cruelty. Isn't it every girl's dream to become a princess one day? Our protagonist is chosen to be the next empress in the land of 1001 nights. Slowly, the dream becomes a miraculous nightmare of 365 long days and nights.
The film is also a probing look at desire. Which is more tempting: that which can be seen, or that which is out of frame? It is a question with repercussions for the structure of the story, as well as for the cinematography. The Emperor chooses a girl he is not allowed to see. Sabah is taught, at first by force, then by seduction, to love the man she has never seen. A most important element in the framing of the film will be this notion of watching...being watched.

The Emperor's Wife has been selected for the Commonwealth Film Festival.
Viareggio EuropaCinema 'Best Score' 2003