The Bard on Film

Lately, TCM has had a glut of Shakespeare films. HamletHenry VRichard IIIOthelloRomeo and Juliet, and from a few months ago, The Tempest. I’m a huge Shakespeare fan, though I’m not in love with all of his plays. I loathe Cymbeline and (shockingly) I dislike Romeo and Juliet. And I love Shakespeare on film. I love how the various filmmakers adapt the work of the Bard. 

My first encounter with the Bard on film is, as most of us no doubt encounter him, through Romeo and Juliet. The Zefferelli version still has a place in my heart,though it has been years since I last saw it. And the 1936 version with Norma Shearer as Juliet is very good, as well. I haven’t seen the Luhrmann version of Romeo and Juliet, though. Don’t really want to.

Perhaps my favorite filmed version of a Shakespeare play is Titus. I just love the schizophrenia of the play, the interplay of anachronistic Romes, and the concept of honor and family as self destructive forces. 

Keeping on Julie Taymor directed Shakespeare films, I’m equally in love with her The Tempest. Damn, making Prospero Prospera is inspired. Helen Mirren brings so much force to the role that I, honestly, have rarely seen in other versions of the play. That said, I am also in love with Derek Jarman’s version from the 70s. Now that was a truly gothic experience!

Another of my favorite Shakespeare plays is Richard III. I simply can’t choose between Olivier’s or McKellan’s version. I strongly favor playing with anachronism, but there is just something about Olivier’s that keeps me entranced. 

The same is true of Branagh’s Henry V and Hamlet vs. Olivier’s versions. Personally, I like Olivier’s Henry V and Branagh’s Hamlet more. Don’t get me started on Gibson’s horrid version of Hamlet

Before I visit Japan and Akira Kurosawa’s Shakespearean adaptations, I really should touch on Othello. I’ve only seen one version, Olivier’s. And while the acting is fine, I really, strongly, hate the black face. In this day and age, Othello should be played by an actor of African descent. Not some white dude with really bad face paint. 

Now, on to Shakespeare in Japan. I freaking love Throne of Blood and Ran. Just damn. Both films are freaking awesome and so well done. And Kurosawa does a great job of translating Shakespeare into a Japanese context. 

According to TCM’s introductions to Olivier’s Shakespearean quartet, Olivier is largely responsible for bringing Shakespeare to film (yes, Romeo and Juliet in 1936 predates Olivier’s 1944 Henry V, but Henry V was far more successful than Romeo and Juliet). 

Now, I want to go watch more film adaptations of Shakespeare!

Next time: The future of science fiction on television. And a new entry in my Posts on Writing. Plus, I’m working on some ideas for LGBT themed posts in honor of LGBT History Month. Any suggestions?


Posted on April 28, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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