Preface to the Film Reviews

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Preface to the Film Reviews:
Just because a film is named after one of Shakespeare's plays and credits him as a writer, it does not follow that the film will be Shakespeare's play. In fact, it is almost a movie-industry-wide practice to cut more than two-thirds of the text. This cutting is done for several reasons, but primarily because (1) cutting allows the director more freedom in presenting his interpretation of the text of the play, and (2) most modern audiences are uncomfortable sitting through a film that lasts longer than 120 to 150 minutes. Therefore, for the following films, textual analysis is kept to a minimum. A critical analysis of the text may be found at any of our click-guides to the plays.

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It should be noted that the only complete series of all of Shakespeare's plays is the BBC Shakespeare Series, which were done in period costume and formatted for television. They are done using full texts, but are also subject to directorial choices. It is important to remember that these films are interpretations of Shakespeare's plays.

Henry V (1944)

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World War II was at its height, and it was becoming obvious that if the British were to prevent invasion by Hitler, they would have to do something drastic. Building morale among their people and their troops became a priority. Laurence Olivier rose to the occasion, and, despite a shortage of resources, filmed this excellent treatment of Henry V, his first effort at Shakespeare on film. No other film, with the possible exception of Shakespeare in Love, sets the scene the way Olivier does. The film opens with an audience filing into a recreated Globe Theatre in Elizabethan London. As the Chorus proceeds, the setting moves to the court of Henry V, the king who had fought and won France for the English. Olivier purposely chose to focus on the patriotic themes of the play, and the result was that the film was an overwhelming success. It does have its quirks, however. In the 'unto the breach' scene, Olivier had to make do with American soldiers for Henry's army. They can be identified as the ones with their helmets on the back of their heads like baseball caps. Because England had been devastated by the blitz, the set was Ireland. But it was the spirit of non-defeat and patriotism that Olivier captured so well. Even the courting scene of Katherine and Henry has a fairy-tale beauty about it. Although some of the bits, such as the 'leek' scene with Fluellen, may be a little difficult to understand, this film explains why Olivier was so respected for his in Shakespeare on film and set the standard for the remainder of the 20th century. This film is a must-see. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Chorus: Leslie Banks; Archbishop of Canterbury: Felix Aylmer; Bishop of Ely: Robert Helpmann; English Herald: Vernon Greeves; Earl of Westmorland: Gerald Case; Earl of Salisbury: Griffith Jones; Sir Thomas Erpingham: Morland Graham; Duke of Exeter: Nicholas Hannen; Duke of Gloucester: Michael Warre; King Henry V: Laurence Olivier; Mountjoy: Ralph Truman; Duke of Berri: Ernest Thesiger; Lieutenant Bardolph: Roy Emerton; Ancient Pistol: Robert Newton; Mistress Quickly: Freda Jackson; Boy: George Cole; Sir John Falstaff: George Robey; King Charles VI of France: Harcourt Williams; Duke of Bourbon: Russell Thorndike; Constable of France: Leo Genn; Duke of Orleans: Francis Lister; The Dauphin: Max Adrian; French Messenger: Jonathan Field; Fluellen: Esmond Knight; Captain Gower: Michael Shepley; Captain Jamie: John Laurie; Captain MacMorris: Niall MacGinnis; Governor of Harfleur: Frank Tickle; Princess Katherine: Renee Asherson; Alice: Ivy St. Helier; Queen Isabel of France: Janet Burnell; Court: Brian Nissen; Bates: Arthur Hambling; Williams: Jimmy Hanley; Priest: Ernest Hare; Duke of Burgundy: Valentine Dyall.

Director: Reginald Beck, Laurence Olivier; Writers: Dallas Bower, Alan Dent, Laurence Olivier, William Shakespeare; Producers: Dallas Bower, Filippo Del Guidice, Laurence Olivier; Production Company: Two Cities Films Ltd. (UK).

Colour. Runtime: 135 mins.

Henry V (1989)

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Like Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh's first foray into Shakespeare on film was Henry V. Branagh, however, was under no mandate to make the film as propaganda for a world war effort, and, therefore, the director/screenwriter was free to portray the blood and dirt of war in graphic detail. Branagh is a strong effective king in this piece presented in period costume, and the audience firmly believes that the Dauphin doesn't stand a chance against him. The soldiers are a tough lot and they fight amidst the smoke and fire of a frightening real battlefield. Henry's rejection of his former friends and their execution illustrates not only Henry's strength as a king, but his moral conviction as a man. Henry does have a tender side, however, and in the courting scene with Katherine, played by Emma Thompson, Branagh is the quintessential romantic hero. For Thompson, she brings a freshness and spirit to Katherine that truly complements her soon-to-husband's disposition. The rest of the cast, drawn from the cream of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre (UK), are superb in their roles and the entire film rings with a truthfulness about the need for, and the cost, of war. This one is a must-see. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Narrator: Derek Jacobi; Henry V: Kenneth Branagh; Gloucester: Simon Shepherd; Bedford: James Larkin; Exeter: Brian Blessed; York: James Simmons; Canterbury: Charles Kay; Ely: Alec McCowen; Cambridge: Fabian Cartwright; Scroop: Stephen Simms; Grey: Jay Villiers; Erpingham: Edward Jewesbury; Fluellen: Ian Holm; Gower: Daniel Webb; Jamy: Jimmy Yuill; Macmorris: John Sessions; Bates: Shaun Prendergast; Court: Patrick Doyle; Williams: Michael Williams; Bardolph: Richard Briers; Nym: Geoffrey Hutchings; Pistol: Robert Stephens; Falstaff: Robbie Coltrane; Falstaff's Boy: Christian Bale; Mistress Quickly: Judi Dench; French King: Paul Scofield; Dauphin: Michael Maloney; Burgundy: Harold Innocent; Orleans: Richard Clifford; Grandpre: Colin Hurley; Constable: Richard Easton; Mountjoy: Christopher Ravenscroft; Katherine: Emma Thompson; Alice: Geraldine McEwan; Governor of Harfleur: David Lloyd Meredith; Messenger: David Parfitt; Warwick: Nicholas Ferguson; Talbot: Tom Whitehouse; Berri: Nigel Greaves; Bretagne: Julian Gartside; Soldiers: Mark Inman, Chris Armstrong.

Director; Kenneth Branagh; Writers: Kenneth Branagh, William Shakespeare; Producers: Stephen Evans, David Parfitt, Bruce Sharman; Production Companies: BBC, Renaissance Films (UK).

Colour. Runtime: 137 mins.

Macbeth (1971)

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When this version of Macbeth was released in 1971 and it was noted that Hugh Hefner and the Playboy empire had a stake in it, it was roundly rejected as a serious Shakespeare film. However, over the last few decades, it has come to be appreciated as one of the finer interpretations of Shakespeare's shortest play. Roman Polanski's choices are at the opposite spectrum from Orson Welles'. Polanski portrays the Macbeths as a loving couple caught up in political games. Jon Finch's Macbeth is reluctant to become involved with the witches, who here are portrayed as old and blind, middle aged, and young and nubile. These witches are part of a coven who perform their rituals in the nude, and who have only some control over events. The murder of Duncan is shown in graphic, bloody detail, the only such visualisation on film. Lady Macbeth's suicide is also shown. But perhaps the most spectacular surprise is the rolling of Macbeth's head down the lane after it is severed from his body. The film also has a twist at the end, which, although not in the text, may be strongly suggested by Shakespeare. Unlike Welles' unrelenting film noir landscape, Polanski makes full use of magnificent cinematography to push the narrative to its inescapable end. Set in a traditional medieval period, this one is a must-see. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Cast: Macbeth: Jon Finch; Lady Macbeth: Francesca Annis; Banquo: Martin Shaw; Macduff: Terence Bayler; Ross: John Stride; Duncan: Nicholas Selby; Malcolm: Stephen Chase; Donalbain: Paul Shelley; Blind Witch: Maisie MacFarquhar; 1st Witch: Elsie Taylor; Young Witch: Noelle Rimmington; Seyton: Noel Davis; Porter: Sydney Bromley; Doctor: Richard Pearson; Gentlewoman: Patricia Mason; Murderers: Michael Balfour, Andrew McCullough; Fleance: Keith Chegwin; Lennox: Andrew Laurence; Angus: Bernard Archard; Caithness: Bruce Purchase; Mentieth: Frank Wylie; Lady Macduff: Diane Fletcher; Macduff's Son: Mark Dightam; King's Grooms: Bill Drysdale, Roy Jones; Cawdor: Vic Abbott; Minor Thanes: Ian Hogg, Geoffrey Reed, Nigel Ashton; Young Seyward: William Hobbs; Old Seyward: Alf Joint; Boy Apprentice: Paul Hennen.

Director: Director: Roman Polanski; Writers: Roman Polanski, William Shakespeare, Kenneth Tynan. Producers: Andrew Braunsberg, Hugh N. Hefner. Production Companies: Caliban Films, Playboy Productions Inc.

Colour. Runtime: 140 mins.

Richard III (1995)

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Ian McKellen had long been respected as an actor and Shakespearean in Britain and Europe since 1963, but it wasn't until The Last Action Hero (1993) that Hollywood took notice. In the Arnold Schwarzenegger action film, McKellen played Death, and other movies roles soon followed. In 1999, he received an Oscar nomination for his lead role in Gods and Monsters, but Richard III is a role close to McKellan's heart. In this interpretation, McKellen was writer and producer, but left the direction to Richard Longcraine. Set in the 1930s after the declaration of World War II in Europe, Richard is a general bent on taking control of the country through any means possible. Surrounded by an all-star cast that included many Americans such as Annette Bening and Robert Downey, Jr., Richard's cold calculation in his drive for throne is bone-chilling. Maggie Smith and Kristen Scott Thomas as the women who suffer most from his murderous solutions to problems are spellbinding. Their ability to delude themselves until it is too late is truly amazing. But McKellen is outstanding in his characterisation of an evil despot who knows how to use his liabilities as assets. Longcraine's attention to detail and his collaboration with McKellen on the screenplay ensure that the film is a visual spectacle and a delight for the ears. The text is clear, and not for one moment does the attention lag. This is a snappy, crisp, intense experience in the abuse of power. A must-see. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Richard III: Ian McKellen; Queen Elizabeth: Annette Bening; Buckingham: Jim Broadbent; Rivers: Robert Downey, Jr.; Clarence: Nigel Hawthorne; Lady Anne: Kristin Scott Thomas; King Edward: John Wood; Duchess of York: Maggie Smith; Hastings: Jim Carter; Stanley: Edward Hardwicke; Tyrell: Adrian Dunbar; River's Mistress/Air Hostess: Tres Hanley; Richmond: Dominic West; Archbishop: Roger Hammond; Catesby: Tim McInnerny; Ballroom Singer: Stacey Kent; Ratcliffe: Bill Paterson; Lord Mayor: Dennis Lil; George Stanley: Ryan Gilmore; Jailer: Andy Rashleigh; Prince of Wales: Marco Williamson; King Henry: Edward Jewesbury; Prince Edward: Christopher Bowen; Young Prince: Matthew Groom; Princess Elizabeth: Kate Steavenson-Payne; Brackenbury: Donald Sumpter; City Gentleman: Bruce Purchase; Subalterns: James Dreyfus, David Antrobus.

Director: Richard Longcraine; Writers: Richard Longcraine, Ian McKellen, William Shakespeare; Producers: Maria Apodiacos, Stephen Bayly, David Lascelles, Ellen Dinerman Little, Ian McKellen, Lisa Katselas Pare, Mary Richards, Joe Simon, Michele Tandy; Production Companies: Bayley/Pare Productions, British Screen, First Look Pictures Releasing, United Artists.

Colour. Runtime: 104 mins.

Romeo and Juliet (1996)

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Before the release of this film, Franco Zeffirelli's version (1968) was considered the definitive one. Baz Luhrmann, however, proved that fidelity to the text and a medieval setting are not a requirement to Shakespeare on film. From the opening moments, Luhrmann takes control of the screen and does not let go. The visuals, such as turning the names of the swords in the text into the names of guns, and placing Shakespeare plays or quotations in place of a commercial product, make absolute sense. In addition, Luhrmann staunchly defended the American accents of the two leads, Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Luhrmann put his trust in the text and allowed himself to express his creative vision in a way that would make the story clear. He contextualises the 'death-marked love' of the 'star-crossed lovers' as a media event in a modern city, with a feud between the two corporate entities of Montague and Capulet. But perhaps his most radical idea was placing the 'balcony' scene in a swimming pool. For this, Luhrmann was severely criticised, but in actuality, there is no balcony mentioned or indicated by stage directions in the play as Shakespeare wrote it. Luhrmann demonstrates that not only can Shakespeare be fun, but also that it can be a visual treat. And it works. It works well. A must-see. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Romeo: Leonardo DiCaprio; Anchorwoman: Edwina Moore; Gregory: Zak Orth; Juliet: Claire Danes; Sampson: Jamie Kennedy; Benvolio: Dash Mihok; Attractive Girl: Lupita Ochoa; Nun: Gloria Silva; Abra: Vincent Laresca; Petruchio: Carlos Martin Manzo Otelora; Middle Age Occupants: Carolyn Valero, Paco Morayta; Tybalt: John Leguizamo; Kid with Toy Gun: Rodrigo Escandon; Station Mother: Margarita Wynne; Fulgencio Capulet: Paul Sorvino; Ted Montague: Brian Dennehy; Dave Paris: Paul Rudd; Balthasar: Jesse Bradford; Apothecary: M. Emmet Walsh; Susan Santandiago: Harriet Harris; Rich Ranchidis: Michael Corbett; Gloria Capulet, Diane Venora; The Nurse: Miriam Margolyes; Peter: Pedro Altamirano; Mercutio: Harold Perrineau; Capulet Bouncer: Mario Cimarro; Diva: Des'ree; OP Officer: Ismael Eguiarte; Father Laurence: Pete Postlethwaite; Altar Boys: Richard Barona, Fausto Barona, Alex Newman, Cory Newman; Choir Boy: Quindon Tarver; Post Haste Delivery Man: Jorge Abraham; Sacristan: John Sterlini; Undertaker: Farnesio de Bernal; Post Haste Clerk: Catalina Botello.

Director: Baz Luhrmann; Writers: William Shakespeare; Craig Pearce, Baz Luhrmann; Producers: Jill Bilcock, Martin Brown, Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Gabriella Martinelli; Production Companies: 20th Century Fox, Bazmark Films.

Colour. Runtime: 120 mins.

Romeo and Juliet (1968)

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Franco Zeffirelli entered the Shakespeare on film category with a bold move: he cast Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, two unknown teenagers, as Romeo and Juliet. The startling fact was that they were the approximate age of the characters. What resulted was a film that is still cherished as the most romantic and poignant of all the films of this play. Zeffirelli, long a director and producer of operas based on Shakespeare's plays, used his Covent Garden production as a guide for this interpretation. His eye for historical accuracy and authenticity is a hallmark of all his Shakespeare films, but especially in this one that requires so many changes of scene and place. Hussey and Whiting may have been inexperienced, but their innate innocence shone through their performances. Zeffirelli created a hot, Italian world, which he knows intimately, and his caring for his subject is obvious. So powerful is the film that it set a standard that would not be challenged until 1996. A must-see. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Romeo: Leonard Whiting; Juliet: Olivia Hussey; Mercutio: John McEnery; Friar Laurence: Milo O'Shea; The Nurse: Pat Heywood; The Prince: Robert Stephens; Tybalt: Michael York; Benvolio: Bruce Robinson; Lord Capulet: Paul Hardwick; Lady Capulet: Natasha Perry; Lord Montague: Antonio Pierfederici; Lady Montague: Esmeralda Ruspoli; Paris, Roberto Bisacci; Peter: Roy Holder; Balthasar: Keith Skinner; Samson: Dyson Lovell Gregory: Richard Warwick; Narrator Prologue and Epilogue: Laurence Olivier (uncredited).

Director: Franco Zeffirelli; Writers: Franco Brusati, Maestro D'Amico, William Shakespeare, Franco Zeffirelli. Producers: John Brabourne, Richard B. Goodwin, Anthony Havelock-Allen; Production Companies: BHE Films, Dino de Laurentiis Cinematograifica (IT), Paramount Pictures, Verona Produzione (IT).

Colour. Runtime: 138 mins.

Hamlet (1948)

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When Laurence Olivier came to the rescue of the morale of British soldiers during World War II with Henry V, he became the unofficial guardian of Shakespeare on film. This film has been considered a classic since its release, and earned Olivier an Oscar for his performance. However, by today's standards, Olivier's Hamlet seems stiff and a bit stodgy. Olivier delivers a Hamlet that is very introverted and psychologically unstable. A psychiatrist friend who believed that Hamlet suffered from an Oedipus complex, so named because the eponymous hero of the ancient Greek play kills his father and marries his mother had influenced Olivier. In Olivier's film, Hamlet is very much a 'Mama's boy', and spends an inordinate amount of time on the ramparts of a studio Elsinore talking to himself in voice-over which gives the audience access to his thoughts. Done in traditional costume, the film is dark and sobering, and Jean Simmons's performance as Ophelia is a landmark in film presentation of madness. In the 'nunnery' scene, it is hard not to hate Hamlet for rejecting Ophelia's love. The film cuts the entire Fortinbras thread of the play, which places the focus of the screenplay entirely on Hamlet, but even so, it gives a bird's-eye view into an acting style of the early 20th century meeting the still-young medium of film. It also was one of the first times that an actor directed, wrote, and produced his own film. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Hamlet: Laurence Olivier; Gertrude: Eileen Herlie; Claudius: Basil Sydney; Polonius: Felix Aylmer; Laertes: Terence Morgan; Ophelia: Jean Simmons; Horatio: Norman Wooland; Osric: Peter Cushing; Gravedigger: Stanley Holloway; Priest: Russell Thorndike; Francisco: John Laurie; Bernardo: Esmond Knight; Marcellus: Anthony Quayle; Sea Captain: Niall MacGinnis; First Player: Harcourt Williams; Player King: Patrick Troughton. uncredited: Bit Part: Anthony Bushnell; Voice of Ghost: John Gielgud; Spear Carrier: Christopher Lee; Player Queen: Tony Tarver.

Director: Laurence Olivier; Writers: Alan Dent, Laurence Olivier; Producers: Reginald Beck, Anthony Bushnell, Laurence Olivier. Music: William Walton; Production Companies: Pilgrim Pictures, Two Cities Films Ltd. (UK).

Black and white. Runtime: 155 mins.

Hamlet (1996)

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Kenneth Branagh became the heir apparent to the 'Shakespeare on Film' mantle originally given to Laurence Olivier, and although he denies that this Hamlet is like Olivier's, it is hard to ignore Branagh's dyed blonde hair. But the real problem with the film is its length — not because it is too long to sit through, but because it doesn't have to be that long. Branagh spends a good deal of screen time in extra-textual flashbacks in an effort to make clear what the text is trying to say: there is Claudius' drunkenness, a young Hamlet playing with Yorick, and Fortinbras being corrected by Old Norway. While this may be interesting to the director, it is filmic redundancy to an audience, and sometimes down right annoying. As is the music. There is lots of it, and it interferes with the actor's lines. And there are lots of those too. Because Branagh, for the first time, elected to film a 'complete' version. The problem lies in the definition of 'complete'. Shakespeare's play exists in three versions and often these three texts are combined or conflated to give what some consider a 'complete' text. This conflated text consists of more than 3500 lines and in performance on the stage could take as long as three hours because the passages that Shakespeare wrote as descriptive must be said to a live audience. Film, however, can condense these passages into visual images. Unfortunately, Branagh does not condense, but expand. The important thing that Branagh has done is preserve the political backdrop of the action in the events wrought by Fortinbras and Norway. With the invasion of Norway into Denmark at the end of the film, in a sense, it is complete. The other thing that Branagh does so well is to employ an international cast in certain roles, allowing the actors to speak in their accents. Not only does this technique add appeal for broader audience segments, but it also brings a freshness to certain scenes. In this film, however, the one flaw was the casting of Jack Lemmon as a guard at the beginning, but it is offset by Billy Crystal's performance in the 'graveyard' scene and Robin Williams' as Osric. Overall, the film gives the entire story of the play and gives the viewer a good sense of Denmark as a prison in which there is no privacy at all. And this makes it more successful than either Olivier's or Zeffirelli's version. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Attendants to Claudius: Riz Abbasi, David Blair, Peter Bygott; English Ambassador: Richard Attenborough; Ghost: Brian Blessed; Hamlet: Kenneth Branagh; Polonius: Richard Briers; Priest: Michael Bryant; Gertrude: Julie Christie; First Gravedigger: Billy Crystal; Stage Manager: Charles Daish; Hecuba: Judi Dench; Reynaldo: Gerard Depardieu; Guildenstern: Reece Dinsdale; Yorick: Ken Dodd; Attendant to Gertrude: Angela Douglas, Rowena King, Sarah Lam; Lucianus: Rob Edwards; Horatio: Nicolas Farrell; Francisco: Ray Fearon; Doctor: Yvonne Gidden; Priam: John Gielgud; Player Queen: Rosemary Harris; Player King: Charlton Heston; Cornelius: Ravil Isyanov; Claudius: Derek Jacobi; Fortinbras' Captain: Jeffrey Kissoon; Marcellus: Jack Lemon; Barnardo: Ian McElhinney; Laertes: Michael Maloney; Fortinbras' General: The Duke of Marlborough; Old Norway: John Mills; Sailors: Jimi Mistry, David Yip; Prologue: Siân Radinger; Prostitute: Melanie Ramsey; Second Gravedigger: Simon Russell Beale; Young Lord: Andrew Schofield; Fortinbras: Rufus Sewell; Rosencrantz: Timothy Spall; Young Hamlet: Tom Szekeres; First Player: Ben Thorn; Voltemand: Don Warrington; Second Player: Perdita Weeks; Osric: Robin Williams; Ophelia: Kate Winslet.

Director: Kenneth Branagh; Writers: William Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh; Producer: David Barron; Music: Patrick Doyle; Production Companies: Castle Rock Entertainment, Columbia Pictures Corporation, Fishmonger Films, Turner Pictures.

Colour. Runtime: 238 minutes.

Macbeth (1948)

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When Citizen Kane was released in 1941, Orson Welles was hailed as the new wunderkind, a title previously held by Irving Thalberg in the past, and more recently, Steven Spielberg. Welles set the standard for innovative angle shots, deep focus, non-linear narrative, and tone setting. Welles, however, determined to follow his own path, and among his Shakespeare efforts, he staged a production of Macbeth that became known as the 'voodoo' Macbeth since it was set in the Caribbean. It was to this dark and foreboding atmosphere that film owes much of its own atmosphere and ideas. The film opens with a clay image that could be interpreted many ways, but as the film progresses, the audience realises that it is a symbol of Macbeth's deepening involvement with the witches. Welles' Scottish king (played with a Scottish accent), is visually a man of 'vaulting ambition', and his 'fiend-like queen', Jeanette Nolan, is a politically astute wife. Her descent into madness is entirely understandable, as her husband grows more and more distant. The murder of Duncan is like a vision from a horror film, and as the story moves from Macbeth's crowning to his defeat, the images draw both sympathy and abhorrence from the spectator. What are both a success and a drawback to the film is that its darkness and foreboding are unrelenting: there is no relief in the bleak landscape. The recent restoration of 18 minutes does not change the oppressive tone. And it is this uncomfortable feeling the film engenders in the audience that permits them to understand and internalise the madness of absolute power. Welles knows his Shakespeare, and is willing to trust the text to support his filmic ideas, especially in his portrayal of the witches, truly 'evil hags'. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Macbeth: Orson Welles; Lady Macbeth: Jeanette Nolan; Macduff: Dan O'Herlihy; Malcolm: Roddy McDowall; Banquo: Edgar Barrier; A Holy Father: Alan Napier; Duncan: Erskine Sanford; Ross: John Dierkes; Lennox: Keene Curtis; Lady Macduff/Witch: Peggy Webber; Siward: Lionel Braham; Young Siward: Archie Heuglly; Fleance: Jerry Farber; Macduff Child: Christopher Welles; Doctor: Morgan Farley; First Gentlewoman/Witch: Lurene Tuttle; First Murderer/Witch: Brainerd Duffield; 2nd Murderer: William Alland; Seyton: George Chirello; The Porter: Gus Schilling.

Director: Orson Welles; Writers: William Shakespeare (Orson Welles uncredited);Producers: Charles K. Feldman, Orson Welles, Richard Wilson; Production Companies: Literary Classics Productions, Mercury Productions, Republic Pictures Corporation.

Black and white. Runtime 107 mins. restored version; 89 mins. Original.

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

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After the success of Henry V, many Hollywood pundits doubted whether Kenneth Branagh could do another Shakespeare play as well. But they needn't have worried. This interpretation of one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies is one of the best. The film opens with the beautiful vistas of Italy, the returning soldiers (led by Denzel Washington), the giggles of the waiting maids. Branagh as Benedick is the perfect foil to Emma Thompson's Beatrice as they wage the verbal battle of the sexes. Tricked by their friends into believing the other is in love, their happy banter is the prelude to the serious consequences of romantic love. Beautiful Hero (Kate Beckinsale) is rejected by the handsome Claudio ( Robert Sean Leonard) at the altar. When Hero 'dies', Benedick offers to do anything for Beatrice, and she asks him to 'Kill Claudio', the line on which the whole play turns. What happens next is a skilful blend of tragedy and comedy, with the vicious intrigues of Don John (Keanu Reeves) being undone by the irrepressible Constable Dogberry (Michael Keaton). The lavish and well thought out production leads to a happy ending, and all the couples have learned a few things about love. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Seignior Leona to, Governor of Messina: Richard Briers; Hero: Kate Beckinsale; Margaret: Imelda Staunton; Friar Francis: Jimmy Yuill; Seigneur Antonio: Brian Blessed; George Seacole: Andy Hockley; Francis Seacole: Chris Barnes; Hugh Oatcake: Conrad Nelson; Ursula: Phyllida Law; Beatrice: Emma Thompson; Messenger: Alex Lowe; Don Pedro of Aragon: Denzel Washington; Don John: Keanu Reeves; Conrade: Richard Clifford; Boracchio: Gerald Horan; Count Claudio of Florence: Robert Sean Leonard; Seigneur Benedick: Kenneth Branagh; Balthasar: Patrick Doyle; The Boy: Alex Scott; Constable Dogberry: Michael Keaton; Headborough Verges: Ben Elton; Sexton: Edward Jewesbury.

Director: Kenneth Branagh; Writers: Kenneth Branagh, William Shakespeare; Producers: Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Evans, David Parfitt; Production Companies: BBC, Renaissance Films, Samuel Goldwyn Company.

Colour. Runtime: 111 mins.

The Taming of the Shrew (1967)

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After the fiasco of Cleopatra which forced 20th Century Fox to the brink of bankruptcy, Hollywood insiders thought Franco Zeffirelli was crazy for casting Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in this film about an out-of-control woman finding marital happiness. But Zeffirelli was convinced that the couple had special box office magic. Aside from that obvious quality, Burton and Taylor are wonderful as the warring Petruchio and Katharina. With the support of well-known British and Shakespearean actors such as Michael Holdern, Cyril Cusack, Victor Spinetti, and Michael York, and relatively unknown Italian actors, the film is done in the style for which Zeffirelli would become famous: serious attention to historical detail and a lively, clear pace. The film opens with a street carnivale that captures all the excitement of the first day at university. As the story progresses, Zeffirelli includes Burton and Taylor in a rooftop chase in the 'wooing' scene, an outrageously funny 'tailor' scene, and a stunning 'moon-sun' scene. But perhaps the most impressive scene, however, is the final one in which Kate delivers her 'submission' speech. Taylor is not only beautiful but an effective Shakespeare actor who brings warmth and pathos to the difficult role. Zeffirelli does allow a few extra-textual liberties, but they never detract from the text or the film. In his autobiography, Zeffirelli considered the making of the film as one of his best experiences in filmmaking. It shows in this wonderful entertainment. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Katharina: Elizabeth Taylor; Petruchio: Richard Burton; Grumio: Cyril Cusack; Baptista: Michael Holdern; Tranio: Alfred Lynch; Gremio: Alan Webb; Priest: Giancarlo Cobelli; Pedant: Vernon Dobtcheff; Tailor: Ken Parry; Haberdasher: Anthony Gardner; Bianca: Natasha Pyne; Lucentio: Michael York; Hortensio: Victor Spinetti; Biondello; Roy Holder; Vincentio: Mark Dignam; The Widow: Bice Valori; Nathaniel: Alberto Bonucci.

Director: Franco Zeffirelli; Writers: Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Paul Dehn, William Shakespeare, Franco Zeffirelli; Producer: Richard McWhorter; Production Companies: FAI (IT), Royal Films International.

Colour. Runtime: 122 mins.

Titus (1999)

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 373

Titus Andronicus, one of Shakespeare's earliest plays, is probably the most difficult to do in terms of staging because it could very easily turn into a melodrama with the numbers of deaths, the rape and mutilation of Lavinia, and Titus' ultimate revenge. However, in the very capable hands of Julie Taymor (who directed the stage version of The Lion King), the story is not only intensely moving, but also deeply affecting. Anthony Hopkins as Titus delivers a powerful performance as a loyal soldier who comes home from the war to bury 21 of his many sons lost in battle. Titus is at the same time, mad, angry, revengeful, and pitiful as his life around him disintegrates into an array of dead children. Jessica Lange is at her best as his nemesis, Tamora. Harry Lennix's Aaron is deliciously aggressive and unrepentant. Taymor's creation of a non-period Rome in a fantasy world of bright colours and questionable morals is a visual picnic where the viewer may pick and choose a different dish every time the film is watched. And this film should be watched more than once in order to savour Taymor's sure and steady telling of this grotesque tale in which it is very clear that the future is in the children. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Young Lucius: Osheen Jones; Clown: Dario D'Ambrosi; Titus Andronicus: Anthony Hopkins; Tamora: Jessica Lange; Alarbus: Raz Degan; Chiron: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers; Demetrius: Matthew Rhys; Aaron: Harry Lennix; Lucius: Angus Mac Fadyen; Quintus: Kenny Doughty; Mutius: Blake Ritson; Martius: Colin Wells; Priest: Ettore Geri; Saturninus: Alan Cumming; Bassanius: James Frain; Marcus Andronicus: Colm Feore; Aemelius: Constantine Gregory; Lavinia: Laura Fraser; Little Girl: Tresy Taddei; Nurse: Geraldine McEwan; Infant: Bah Souleymane; Publius: Antonio Manzini; Caius: Leonardo Treviglio; Sempronius: Giacomo Gonnella; Valentin: Carlo Medici; Goth Leader: Emanuele Vezzoli; Goth Soldiers: Hermann Weisskopf, Christopher Ahrens; Goth General: Vito Fasano; Goth Lieutenant: Maurizio Rapotec; Roman Captain: Bruno Bilotta.

Director; Julie Taymor; Writers: William Shakespeare, Julie Taymor; Producers: Conchita Airoldi, Paul G. Allen, Stephen K. Bannon, Robert Bernacchi, Mark Bisgeier, Adam Leipzig, Ellen Dinerman Little, Robert Little, Brad Moseley, Jody Patton, Julie Taymor, Karen L. Thorson, Michiyo Yoshizaki; Production Companies: Clear Blue Sky Productions, NDF International, Overseas Film Group, Urania Film (IT).

Colour. Runtime: 162 mins.

Twelfth Night; or What You Will (1996)

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 363

Trevor Nunn is currently the Director of the National Theatre in London, but in 1996, during the 'Shakespeare boom', he tried his hand at film. The outcome is this very satisfying and entertaining film. In an extra-textual filmic Prologue, Nunn sets up the possibly confusing tale by clearly identifying who's who and what's what. The brother and sister team of Sebastian and Viola are entertainers on a cruise ship, which gets sunk, in a severe storm. Imogen Stubbs is wonderful as Viola, who after the 'death' of her identical twin brother (which, incidentally, is a biological impossibility – but never mind), is hired by Duke Orsino (Toby Stephens). Slowly and steadily she falls in love with her master. He, on the other hand, pines away for Olivia (Helena Bonham Carter) who pines away for her dead brother (who really is dead). Olivia becomes smitten with Viola, who is now Cesario, and Antonio rescues Sebastian, who is mistaken for Cesario, and… well, it's very complicated, but, under Nunn's guidance and judicious pruning of the text, it makes complete sense. The characters involved in the subplot of Sir Toby Belch (Mel Smith) to marry his niece Olivia to the inept Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Richard E. Grant) are brilliantly played against Sir Nigel Hawthorne's Malvolio. The setting is traditional/19th century, and the cinematography captures both the isolation and togetherness in Illyria. With a cast of some of the best British actors, this comedy rolls merrily along until its happy conclusion. Most of all, this film is fun. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Viola: Imogen Stubbs; Sebastian: Steven Mackintosh; Antonio: Nicholas Farrell; Captain: Sid Livingstone; Feste: Ben Kingsley; Priest: James Walker; Olivia: Helena Bonham Carter; Malvolio: Nigel Hawthorne; Sir Toby Belch: Mel Smith; Maria: Imelda Staunton; Duke Orsino: Toby Stephens; Valentine: Alan Mitchell; Fabian: Peter Gunn; Officers: Tim Bentinck, Rod Culbertson; Sir Andrew Aguecheek: Richard E. Grant; Gardener: Jeff Hall.

Director: Trevor Nunn; Writers: Trevor Nunn, William Shakespeare. Producers: Christopher Ball, William Tyrer, Simon Curtis, Stephen Evans, David Garrett, Patrick Wachsberger, Bob Hayward, Ileeen Maisel, David Parfitt, Greg Smith, Ruth Vitale, Jonathan Weisgal; Production Companies: Newmarket Capital Group LP, BBC Films, Summit Entertainment, Renaissance Films.

Colour. Runtime: 134 mins.

Hamlet (1990)

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 339

When Franco Zeffirelli (who was a great admirer of Laurence Olivier) decided to make a film of Hamlet, he had no trouble at all selecting Mel Gibson for the role. The famous Italian director thought it would interesting to see the 'action-hero' play a man who delays action for the length of an entire play. Zeffirelli is noted for his faithfulness to period costuming and setting, and this film does not disappoint on that score. Elsinore opens the film and remains an overbearing presence as the last place that Hamlet can call home. What detracts from the film is Glenn Close's performance as Gertrude and Helena Bonham Carter's as Ophelia. Zeffirelli, believing Hamlet is a domestic tragedy, chose for the Oedipus interpretation, and omits the political thread of Fortinbras and the invasion of Denmark. Under that filter, it is difficult to see why Hamlet would have deep feelings for his mother. Bonham Carter is graceless as Ophelia, and spends a good deal of the time waddling through her madness. However, Paul Scofield as The Ghost is effectively terrifying, and Mel Gibson is surprisingly intense, lucid, and sympathetic. The best bits are the ones with Gibson, and that alone makes the film rise above mediocre to an average treatment of Shakespeare's play. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Hamlet: Mel Gibson; Gertrude: Glenn Close; Claudius: Alan Bates; The Ghost: Paul Scofield; Polonius: Ian Holm; Ophelia: Helena Bonham Carter; Horatio: Stephen Dillane; Laertes: Nathaniel Parker; Guildenstern: Sean Murray; Rosencrantz: Michael Maloney; Gravedigger: Trevor Peacock; Osric: John McEnery; Bernardo: Richard Warwick; Marcellus: Christian Anholt; Francisco: Dave Duffy; Reynaldo: Vernon Dobtcheff; Player King: Pete Postlethwaite; Player Queen: Christopher Fairbank; The Players: Sarah Phillips, Ned Mendez, Roy York, Marjorie Bell, Justin Case, Roger Low, Lucianus Gonzaga, Pamela Sinclair, Baby Simon Sinclair, Roy Evans.

Director: Franco Zeffirelli; Writers: William Shakespeare, Christopher De Vore, Franco Zeffirelli; Producer: Dyson Lovell; Music: Ennio Morricone; Production Companies: Carolco Pictures, Icon Entertainment International, Le Studio Canal+ (FR), Marquis, Nelson Entertainment, Sovereign Pictures, Warner Bros., World Icon b.v.

Colour. Runtime: 130 mins.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 360

On first look, this film may seem like a Branagh treatment, and one may be forgiven thinking that because of the star cast and the clarity of Shakespeare's text. However, that is where the similarity ends. This film can be summed up in one word: pretty. Ordinarily, that would be a good thing, but this treatment is almost too pretty. Set in Italy, the scenery is magnificently photographed, but as the film progresses, it becomes tiresome. Michelle Pfeiffer is shot through a heavy gauze and constantly looks sleepy. The fairy scenes are also too pretty. The only gritty pseudo-realism comes when Nick Bottom goes home to his wife, a character not in Shakespeare's play. His humiliation at the hands of the townspeople is also extra-textual, and adds nothing to Kevin Kline's fine performance as the amateur actor who wants to play all the roles in Peter Quince's play, but gets turned into an ass in the forest. Also in fine form are Rupert Everett as Oberon and Stanley Tucci as Philostrate. Most of the 'rude mechanicals' are exactly that in their characters — mechanical, and Calista Flockhart is sorrowfully miscast as Helena, as is Anna Friel in the role of Hermia. But overall, the narrative moves along at an entertaining pace, and if the saccharine prettiness can be endured, the film does provide a modicum of magic, especially in the play-within-a-play-within-a-film of Pyramus and Thisbe. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Nick Bottom: Kevin Kline; Titania: Michelle Pfeiffer; Oberon: Rupert Everett; Puck: Stanley Tucci; Hermia: Anna Friel; Helena: Calista Flockhart; Demetrius: Christian Bale; Lysander: Dominic West; Theseus: David Strathairn; Hippolyta: Sophie Marceau; Peter Quince: Roger Rees; Robin Starveling: Max Wright; Snug: Gregory Jbara; Tom Snout: Bill Irwin; Francis Flute: Sam Rockwell; Egeus: Bernard Hill; Philostrate: John Sessions; Hard-eye Fairy: Deidre Harrison; Bottom's Wife: Heather Parisi; Cobweb: Annalisa Cordone; Mustardseed: Paola Pessot; Moth: Solena Nocentini; Peaseblossom: Flaminia Fegarotti; Master Antonio: Valerio Isidori; Dangerous Boys: Daniele Finizio, Damiano Salvatori; Changeling Boy: Chomoke Bhuyian.

Director: Michael Hoffman; Writers: William Shakespeare, Michael Hoffman; Producers: Nigel Goldsack, Michael Hoffman, Arnon Milchan, Leslie Urdang, Ann Wingate. Production Companies: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Panoramica (IT), Regency Enterprises.

Colour. Runtime: 116 mins.

Othello (1965)

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 334

Given that for years since the release of his Henry V Olivier was deemed the definitive interpreter of Shakespeare, it was not entirely unexpected that Olivier's Othello would be above standard. However, what was a surprise was that at a time when the civil rights movement was at its most vigorous, Olivier donned blackface to play the lead role. There were many black actors who could have played the tormented general but it was generally believed that none of them could handle Shakespearean verse in RP ('received pronunciation'), the unofficial accent with which to speak Shakespeare. The film stands as a document of both the passing of the old style of acting and Olivier's box office appeal. The young Maggie Smith is a beautiful but sophisticated Desdemona, and the young Derek Jacobi is an eager Cassio. But there is no doubt that this is Olivier's film, although he was not as involved as in his other Shakespeare projects. Olivier coveys the sense of futility that Othello suffers at the hands of Iago and his half-truths, a man who realises too late that he loved 'not wisely, but too well'. The majority of the film was shot on an indoor set, but even so, the performances engage the viewer with a sense of reality of the pain and confusion the leads endure. This may not be Olivier's best effort, but it is nonetheless an interpretation that will continue to be studied and enjoyed. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Othello: Laurence Olivier; Desdemona: Maggie Smith; Emilia: Joyce Redman; Iago: Frank Finlay; Cassio: Derek Jacobi; Roderigo: Robert Lang; Lodovico: Kenneth MacKintosh; Brabantio: Anthony Nicholls; Bianca: Sheila Reid; Senate Officers: Malcolm Terrace, David Hargreaves; Gratiano: Michael Turner; Duke of Venice: Harry Lomax; Senator: Kenneth Marsh; Sailor Tom Kempinski; Messenger: Nicholas Edmett; Montano: Edward Hardwicke; Cypriot Officers: William Hobbs, Trevor Martin, Christopher Timothy; Clown: Roy Holder.

Director: Stuart Barge, John Dexter (uncredited); Writer: William Shakespeare; Producers: John Brabourne, Anthony Havelock-Allan; Production Company: BHE Films.

Black and white. Runtime: 165 mins.

Richard III (1954)

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 429

As Olivier film treatments of Shakespeare go, this one is average, but even so, it has developed into a legend. The cause of this is the affectation of Olivier's voice in a whiny, staccato pitch that after the first five minutes of the film wears on the ear. The voice overshadows Olivier's deeply moody, truly evil depiction of the notorious king. Surrounded as he had been in the 1940s by the elite of the British acting establishment, Olivier pulls out all the stops, especially in the 'wooing' scene with the newcomer Claire Bloom. In the space of about 100 lines, Richard must convince the Lady Anne, as she is on her way to bury her husband, that he killed the man because of his love for her, that he will die if she does not marry him, and even offers her the knife with which to slay him. It is a most unusual marriage proposal and even more unusual acceptance, causing Richard himself to wonder 'Was ever woman in this humour wooed? Was ever woman in this humour won?' Some accounts say that this was Olivier's favourite role, but as Richard's shadow falls on the wall, it falls over the film as well, making excellent supporting performances brighter by contrast. Of particular note is the smothering of the Princes in the Tower by Tyrell. After these images, many viewers will be glad that Richard is slaughtered horribly on the battlefield. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Edward Plantagenet, King Edward IV: Cedric Hardwicke; Archbishop of Canterbury: Nicholas Hannen; Richard III: Laurence Olivier; Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham: Ralph Richardson; George, Duke of Clarence: John Gielgud; Elizabeth Woodville, Queen Elizabeth: Mary Kerridge; Jane Shore: Pamela Brown; Page to Richard: Stewart Allen; Lady Anne Neville: Claire Bloom; Priests: Russell Thorndike; Monks: Wally Bascoe, Norman Fisher; Brackenbury: Andrew Cruickshank; Antony Woodville, Earl Rivers: Clive Morton; Scrivener: Terence Greenridge; Sir William Catesby: Norman Wooland; Thomas, Lord Hastings: Laurence Naismith; Dighton: Michael Gough; Forrest: Michael Ripper; Duchess of York: Helen Hayes; Richard, young Duke of York: Andy Shine; Abbot: Roy Russell; Lord Mayor of London: George Woodbridge; Sir Richard Ratcliffe: Esmond Knight; Lord Lovell: John Laurie; Messenger to Hastings: Peter Williams; Ostler: Timothy Bateson; Scrubwoman: Ann Wilton; Beadle: Bill Shine; Clergymen: Derek Prentice, Derring Wells; George Stanley: Richard Bennett; Tyrell: Patrick Troughton; Messengers to Richard: Brian Nissen, Lane Meddick, Robert Bishop; John Howard, Duke of Norfolk: John Phillips; Henry Tudor: Stanley Baker.

Director: Laurence Olivier; Writers: William Shakespeare, Alan Dent (uncredited), Laurence Olivier (uncredited); Producer: Laurence Olivier; Production Company: London Film Productions.

Colour. Runtime: 161 mins.

The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952)

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 292

Three years following his version of Macbeth, Orson Welles tackled one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies. This interpretation is classic Welles, with long dark shadows, deep voice-overs, interesting camera angles that offer a view into the characters' minds. This Othello is basically insecure and definitely an outsider in the world of Venice, but becomes even more so when he and Desdemona (Suzanne Cloutier) arrive in Cyprus. In contrast to Welles' blackface make-up, Cloutier's brightly lit white face is ablaze with smouldering innocence. The audience, while it may feel deep sympathy for Othello, feels equal rancour toward Michael McLiammeir's Iago, who bends and twists the truth with enviable skill. As with of Macbeth, however, Welles' propensity for using darkness to represent oppression and doubt is itself oppressive. Even before they set sail, the audience is aware that this couple will find more trouble than they can handle just from the way they are photographed. Although the story is a tragedy, Shakespeare built scenes into the play that are intended to relieve some of the pressure. By not allowing these scenes, Welles creates a world from which no one, not even the audience, can escape. Nonetheless, as part of the Wellesian canon, the film is worth a look. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Othello: Orson Welles; Iago: Michael McLiammeir; Roderigo; Robert Coote; Desdemona: Suzanne Cloutier; Brabantio: Hilton Edwards; Lodovico: Nicholas Bruce; Cassio: Michael Lawrence; Emilia: Fay Compton; Bianca: Doris Dowling; uncredited: Page Boy: Abdullah Ben Mohamet; Senator: Joseph Cotton; Montano: Jean Davis; Page: Joan Fontaine.

Director: Orson Welles (uncredited); Writers: William Shakespeare, Jean Sacha (uncredited, Orson Welles (uncredited); Producers: Walter Bedone (uncredited), Patrice Dali (uncredited), Julier Derode, Rocco Facchini (uncredited), Giorgio Papi (uncredited), Orson Welles (uncredited); Production Company: Mercury Productions.

Black and white. Runtime: 90 mins.

Othello (1995)

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 292

Thirty years after Laurence Olivier played the Moor in blackface, one of the leading African-American actors, Laurence Fishburne, assumed the role. For perhaps the first time, Shakespeare's play was treated with a realism toward the racial issues that the play raises. And what better villain to have to torture Othello than Kenneth Branagh as Iago. It should have worked very well, but director Oliver Parker spends an inordinate amount of time with full close-ups of Iago and voice-overs that, after while, begin to be tedious and boring. The action between Othello and Desdemona (Irene Jacob) sometimes has an orchestrated feel, and there are moments when it is difficult to care about what happens to these people during their relationship games. The editing of text has been done so that the focus of attention is on Iago, and in effect, this unbalances the play and the film. Fishburne does his best to be passionate and caring, but it is Branagh who is on screen most of the time. It may have been better to call the film 'Iago'. In spite of these pitfalls, it must be said that this film saw the defeat of the 'received pronunciation' that had marked Olivier's and some of Branagh's films, and demonstrated once and for all that black actors can play Shakespeare. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Othello: Laurence Fishburne; Desdemona: Irene Jacob; Iago: Kenneth Branagh; Cassio: Nathaniel Parker; Roderigo: Michael Maloney; Emilia: Anna Patrick; Montano: Nicholas Farrell; Bianca: Indra Ove; Lodovico: Michael Sheen; Gratiano: Andre Oumansky; Senators: Philip Locke, John Savident; Duke of Venice: Gabriele Ferzetti.

Director: Oliver Parker; Writers: William Shakespeare, Oliver Parker; Producers: David Barron, Jonathan Olsberg, Luc Roeg; Production Companies: Castle Rock Entertainment, Columbia Picture Corporation, Dakota Imminent Films Production.

Colour. Runtime: 123 mins.

Love's Labour's Lost (2000)

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 541

Using his previous success formula of an international cast, Kenneth Branagh filmed a project that he had wanted to do for a very long time: a 1930s treatment of Love's Labour's Lost. Unfortunately, in the age of MTV and VH1, this film is an abysmal failure that can be attributed to several factors. Because of budget limitations, the setting for the film was an indoor set which lack any sense of reality. This may have been Branagh's intent, but to a modern audience is visually unappealing. In addition, Love's Labour's Lost, while a favourite of Branagh's, is a relatively unknown play. As usual, Branagh works long and hard to make the text clear, but the songs he chose for his characters to sing and dance to do not generate from the text, and therefore, seem to be spliced in for no valid reason. Although Adrian Lester and Nathan Lane shine in their roles as Dumaine and Costard, it is at the expense of their fellow actors. It may have been a good idea to give this particular play the 1930s treatment, but it would have been a better idea to cast more song and dance performers like Lester and Lane in the roles. Alicia Silverstone (Clueless) is annoying at best. Branagh cannot dance or sing and looks to be too old for the role of Berowne, the young lover who reluctantly joins the King in giving up women for study. As the pact dissolves on the arrival of the Princess into a courting frenzy, there are some funny moments, but these are not sufficient to carry the film. These dancers are not Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and no matter how they try, they cannot come close. At the end of the play, there is the pageant of the Nine Worthies, and the happy ending is left in question. Here, the entertainment is interrupted by a modern dance sequence that is very out-of-place. And it doesn't end the film. The men go off to meet the challenges set to them by the women, the audience sees those challenges and their completion, and the couples are re-united, presumably to live happily ever after. Whereas the play leaves it to the audience to ponder what will happen, Branagh leaves no room for doubt, and in this, he does the audience a disservice. - J.R. Costa

Cast: Berowne: Kenneth Branagh; The King: Alessandro Nivola; The Princess: Alicia Silverstone; Rosaline: Natascha McElhone; Longaville: Matthew Lillard; Dumaine: Adrian Lester; Don Armado: Timothy Spall; Costard: Nathan Lane; Jacquenetta: Stefania Rocca; Boyet: Richard Clifford; Katherine: Emily Mortimer; Maria: Carmen Ejogo; Moth: Tony O'Donnell; Holofernia: Geraldine McEwan; Nathaniel: Richard Briers; Dull: Jimmy Yuill; Mercade: Daniel Hill; Gaston: Alfred Bell; Isabelle: Daisy Gough; Eugene: Graham Hubbard; Jaques: Paul Moody; Beatrice: Yvonne Reilly; Hippolyte: Iain Stuart Robertson; Celimen: Emma Scott; Sophie: Amy Tez; Dancers: Nikki Abraham, Colin Barrett, Jonathan Blazer, Catherine Dugdale, Michele Du Verney, Richard Joseph, Trudi Swift; Bryn Walters.

Director: Kenneth Branagh; Writers; Kenneth Branagh, William Shakespeare; Producers: David Barron, Kenneth Branagh, Andrea Calderwood, Guy East, Alexis Lloyd, Rick Schwartz, Nigel Sinclair, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein; Production Companies: Arts Council of England, Pathè Pictures, Shakespeare Film Company Intermedia Films, Le Studio Canal+ (FR), Miramax Films.

Colour. Runtime: 93 mins.

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