Friday Favourites: Shakespeare Film Adaptations
By Hodderscape Team
Posted on October 9, 2015 in Friday Favourites with tags
In honour of the new Macbeth, team Hodderscape pick out their favourite Shakespeare adaptations.
Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
Much Ado About Nothing (2012) is absolutely brilliant. A traditional retelling of the story brought into the modern day, and laden with so much humour and wit, even the most ardent Shakespeare-haters will find something to like. As this is a Joss Whedon film, expect to see a lot of Buffy/Angel/Firefly alumni, from main characters Beatrice (Angel) and Benedick (Buffy/Angel) to secondary characters Leonardo (Marvel: Agents of Shield), Dogberry (Firefly) and Claudio (Dollhouse). This Much Ado is full of substance AND style, and is one of the best looking films I’ve seen in a long time (plus, enjoy the behind-the-scenes nosing around inside Whedon’s house, which was used for the set).
Orson Welles directs and stars in the classic 50s black and white bowdlerised version of the great tragedy. Welles is immense, the location shots (Morocco, Venice, Tuscany and Rome) wonderfully melancholic and atmospheric — all this despite the fact that the money ran out twice (once before filming even began) and Welles had to take on other projects just to finance its completion. The film exist in several contradictory edited editions, adding further to its mystique.
With all respect to the Bard, Titus Andronicus is not his best. But it is his goriest. There’s a death every 97 lines and at the end Titus Andronicus feeds his enemy a pie… filled with her kids. It’s great.
Julie Taymor’s adaptation is wonderfully camp, which really is the way to go with material like this. The aesthetic is part fascist Italy, part Ancient Rome, part Alan Cumming wearing black lipstick and gold eyeshadow. There’s also Jonathan Rhys Myers in lady’s underwear. What more could you ask for?
West Side Story
True to form, my favourite Shakespearian adaptation is a musical: West Side Story. Take the story of Romeo & Juliet and add Leonard Bernstein’s astonishing score, Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant lyrics, Jerome Robbins’ genius choreography and the mean streets of New York… and what you get is a sizzling, pulse-pounding heart-breaking classic. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen it, and even just writing about it now makes me think that it’s time for another re-watch.
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
I absolutely love the 1996 adaptation of Romeo + Juliet – it is packed full of action, rowdy teenagers, guns that are called swords, and it even has the one and only Leonardo DiCaprio. But the best thing about this modern day adaptation? It keeps the original script for the play but ensures that every line works in a modern setting.