“Who the bloody hell is this Gertrude Bell?” asks one of the men determining how to conquer and divide the Middle East. “She’s the maker of kings.” And the subject of writer-director Werner Herzog’s latest movie, which concerns a significant female power player in the history of that troubled part of the world. Nicole Kidman plays Bell — a traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, and political attaché (aka spy) for the British Empire at the dawn of the 20th century.
At one point she worked with T.E. Lawrence and is credited with mapping Iraq (she’s buried in Bagdad) and Jordan in the early 1900s. Herzog’s sweeping story includes glimpses of her relationships with Lawrence (Robert Pattinson), Charles Doughty-Wylie (Damian Lewis) and Henry Cadogan (James Franco). The movie screened earlier this year at the Berlin Film Festival. Atlas Distribution, which is handling the movie in the U.S., hasn’t set a date.