In the historical film, directed by Karim Aïnouz, Law portrays English monarch Henry VIII in the last stages of his life. Alicia Vikander plays his sixth and final wife and queen, Catherine Parr.
Since its first screening on Sunday (21 May), Firebrand has received widespread praise from its audience, beginning with a seven-minute standing ovation at the end of its Cannes screening.
Yet one aspect of the film has been an additional matter of intrigue: the appearance of the rotund king’s bare bottom during a sex scene with Catherine.
In his review for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw likened the appearance of Henry’s bottom to a “giant, shaved arse of a sheep” before posing the question: “Did Law use a buttock double for this stomach-turning image?”
For The Times, reviewer Kevin Maher had a similar query. “A gasp-inducing shot of Henry’s enormous rolling buttocks suggests that Law has partaken in some alarmingly detrimental weight gain (he hasn’t!) or else clever editing, and a substitute posterior, is at work,” he wrote.
Many reviews of Law’s portrayal of the late king discuss the king’s grotesque attitude and deteriorated physical state.
Henry suffered from chronic leg ulcers for much of the last decade of his life, thought to have been caused by an infection following a jousting accident in 1536.
As a result, his legs are described as “rotting”. In The Telegraph, Tim Robey wrote: “There’s a brief shot of maggots writhing in [Henry VIII’s leg] which could easily cause you to throw up.”
A UK cinematic release date for Firebrand has yet to be announced.
Previously at Cannes, the festival opened with a screening of Jeanne du Barry, which features Johnny Depp as another monarch from centuries ago: French king Louis XV. You can read The Independent’s review here.