Cinematizing Shakespeare

If Shakespeare were alive today, he’d be writing movies. So starts this great commentary on the history of Shakespeare’s plays in film.
(Did you know that the very first Shakespeare-on-film was actually King John, a silent film in 1899?)

Some choice quotes tell you where the journalist’s heart lies: “Film directors continually talk about ‘opening up’ Shakespeare for the big screen. To me, this always brings to mind Jack the Ripper opening up the innards of his East End victims in order to slice out their entrails.” He picks a number of adaptations including Prospero’s Books, Brannagh’s fulltext Hamlet, and Iam McKellen’s Richard III and dissects their attempts — too literal from stage to screen? Too liberal?

My personal rule has always been that if you keep the text in tact, then you can visually present it however you want. I don’t have to like it, but you can still do it and get away with calling it Shakespeare. But once you get rid of the original text, then forget it, you’re doing your own thing.

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One thought on “Cinematizing Shakespeare

  1. I completely agree with this, which is why I enjoy wild adaptations, like the 1996 R&J, but not the pseudo-Shakespeare that’s been popping up all over the place lately.

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