The Regime

Kate Winslet stars as the eccentric, paranoid Chancellor of a small European state who meets her match in an unexpected new confidant.

Kate Winslet is having so much fun as Chancellor Elena Vernham, ruler of a Middle European republic, that The Regime is an instant delight for viewers.

Perhaps looking not too dissimilar to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan or any other stan, this fictional state is in disarray at the top.

Chancellor Elena (Winslet), as if borrowing from the eccentric Howard Hughes, is largely reclusive and constantly paranoid about growing mould and moisture in the air.

She orders beefy Corporal Herbert Zubak (Matthias Schoenaerts) to become her security and personal air tester, to the point of having him bizzarely walk ahead of her just to test the air. But Herbert, who has been freed from prison, has his own backstory surrounding a shooting incident at a local cobalt mine.

The mines are also at the centre of diplomatic negotiations with the Americans, led by a US Senator (Martha Plimpton), who are pressuring Elena for mining rights.

But Herbert, who wins the trust of the Chancellor, convinces her not to become an American lapdog.

Meanwhile senior advisors are alarmed by their grip on power being loosened by the Palace’s latest influencer.

Will Tracy’s script nods to all kinds of news and pop culture touchstones, including those premiers who lock up or eliminate political rivals, Queen Elizabeth’s bedside intruder, China’s belt and road initiative, North Korea, Friends and possibly even Groundhog Day.

The locations, filmed largely in Austria, are ravishing and stately, dripping in gold, statues and painted ceilings.

Winslet is sublime as Chancellor Elena, from being an ice-cold dictator to singing tone deaf Chicago tunes to wilting, grovelling underlings. If VEEP‘s Selina Meyer were ruling in an obscure corner of Europe, she might resemble someone as unhinged as Elena.

Matthias Schoenaerts plays it cool as the silent but powerful Herbert, subservient when it’s wise to be, but exerting influence through charisma.

“You are the only one who can tell me what the nobodies want” – Elena.

The series is directed by Stephen Frears and NZ’s Jessica Hobbs, with music by Alexandre Desplat and features Andrea Riseborough and even Hugh Grant as the Leader of the Opposition.

The Regime is a world away from Mare of Easttown, in tone, location and performance but Winslet is again an inspired series lead.

The Regime screens 8:30pm Monday on Showcase / Binge.

5 Responses

  1. Errr…the various ‘stans’ can in no way be described as European powers-a quick glance at a map shows why-given that it’s been 35 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall the scenario makes very little sense now in Europe at least unless it’s a micro state like Andorra or Lichenstein or San Marino that few have heard of or are troubled by.

      1. Sounds rather like ‘The Gravy Train’ and specifically ‘The Gravy Train Goes East’ which featured an ex Eastern Bloc country being invited in to the EU and the political and beaurocratic intrigue thereof-was a comedy made in the 1990s from older books that featured a relatively young and attractive female president of the afore mentioned country.

          1. The 2 were shown on the ABC at the time in the early 90s-had a good cast-Francesca Annis, Ian Richardson and an early English role for Christoff Waltz as the naive EU rep in the fictional land of Slaka.

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