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Shakespeare on Film

Ever since I was little I have watched/read/studied Shakespeare in some form or another; I've been really lucky that way. I remember whenever I was ill off primary school I'd watch the animated Shakespeare plays on CBBC. Secondary school also presented Shakespeare to me in film-form and in written form. It was finally my friend Jasmine, when we were both twelve or thirteen, who took me to see a Shakespeare play.

I had the absolute pleasure of watching Sprite Productions perform Much Ado at Ripley Castle for Jasmine's birthday present. We proceeded to go the year after to see Twelfth Night - which included much hilarity due to the fact it was tipping it down (being summer in Yorkshire and all) and the opening song "the rain it raineth every day". I will never forget the magic seeing those productions created - the inspiration they gave me.

In the eighteen years I have been alive I have seen roughly six Shakespeare plays performed, three times in a theater, once in a school and twice at Ripley Castle. Despite the varying locations these performances, played by actors ranging from 9-(about)70 years of age, every single time I have been left awe-inspired.

Having just finished watching The Tempest (2010, Helen Mirren) I have been left feeling all fuzzy and lovely from the epic-ness of the writing, and a little empty because something was simply missing. The acting was great, the CGI was fantastic, the lines were delivered well BUT I don't like Shakespeare on film.

There are two main reasons for this: 1) there's no audience/actor connection. Having sat through Reduced Shakespeare by the Reduced Shakespeare Company (RSC, get it?) and having felt the whole room swell with [insert word I'm grasping for here but can't due to indescribable-ness] when one of the actors did a monologue, to have someone perform a monologue on my computer screen just is not the same! Dame Helen Mirren is fantastic - there's no denying that - but there was no swell of 'somethingness' that you get when you're in a theatre.

My other reason is this: 2) minimal, if that, details are left to the imagination. Ariel's characterisation, his costume, his entire being was fantastic to watch but there was no... magic. There was no moments of 'I know this isn't actually happening, but let's pretend it is anyway *wink-wink-nudge-nudge*' / borderline in-joke between the audience/actors. It just lacked that magic that Shakespeare is able to create through his dialogue because it was all laid out for you in black and white... or CGI in this case.

We looked at this sort of thing in my philosophy class. We watched various filmed performances of the famous "to be or not to be" soliloquy and David Tennant's performance, for me, was by far the best because it was in his face - not his physical movements - that you could imagine what Hamlet is going through. Similarly, Macbeth sees a dagger, Lady Macbeth sees blood on her hands - I've seen countless filmed adaptations that make these elements (that I believe are so crucially metaphorical and left to the imagination & actor's ability to deliver) a visible aspect of the production. Where's the fun in that?

It's not this adaptation of The Tempest that I'm picking on - I did enjoy the film - however, I do believe that Shakespeare's dialogue holds so much more power on the stage, as it was originally intended to be confined to.

-- side note: it is the night before I get my A level results and I'm kind of freaking out so this is how I'm calming myself down. I know. Sorry for the rabbly-ness of it.


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