Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: December ::
Re: TV Tempest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1305  Wednesday, 16 December 1998.

[1]     From:   Hugh H. Davis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 14 Dec 1998 12:22:44 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: TV Tempest

[2]     From:   Sally Schutz <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 14 Dec 1998 16:44:50 PST
        Subj:   Re:  T.V. Tempest


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hugh H. Davis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 14 Dec 1998 12:22:44 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: TV Tempest

Now that it's aired, I assume it will be open season on "Gone with the
Tempest," NBC's latest "literary special."  When I first heard plans for
this production, I assumed this would be in the "classics illustrated"
mode of Gulliver's Travels and The Odyssey, but, while it, like Merlin,
was a special effects wonder, this really was the most radical attempt
NBC has offered yet.  "Based on Shakespeare's Classic Story" (as the
Press Kit details), this telemovie was an interesting, if failed,
adaptation.

On the surface, I have no qualms with transformations of the text.
Carol Barton asked why bother to call it Shakespeare at all, but I find
I am most interested in the more divergent Shax films we receive.  The
Tempest has been particularly vulnerable (if that's the right word) to
rewrites, with science-fiction, western, and modern versions already
(not to mention some highly stylized versions which play with text and
meaning as well), and the Civil War Tempest is, I think an idea ripe
with potential.  That said, I fear this version fails to match that high
potential, although there were several interesting moments in which it
tried (or failed) quite fascinatingly.

Obviously, this is the Tempest in story alone, with no lines
transplanted for the actors to try in their faux Southern accents, but I
felt some of the performances, particularly Peter Fonda's and John
Glover's, were quite solid.  The casting of Fonda was an intriguing one,
and it allowed NBC press to highlight his recent success in -Ulee's
Gold-.  However, I felt the casting of Harold Perrineau as Ariel was
most interesting, for, while this is clearly a male and very masculine
Ariel, the androgyny commonly associated with the character is evoked
through Perrineau, whose most high-profile role has been as the
cross-dressing Mercutio in Luhrmann's R&J.

I found some of the earlier moments with Prosper to be the most
interesting.  An intriguing (and at times, both awkward and complicated)
balance was struck between good and evil within him.  Yes, he is a slave
owner, but he is the good master, yet he just walks away when he is
asked to free the whipped Ariel.  He studies are in black magic, with
all of its dark connotations.  Ariel demands his freedom several times,
only to have Prosper look at him in silence.  These moments, I felt,
made the Prospero-figure stronger, and less typically a Hollywood hero
(Merlin moved South).  However, my disappointment grew as the film
progressed, as Caliban became first a silly comic Gator Man figure, then
snapped for a scene to be "more brute than man," then went back to silly
escapades in the swamp.  Grant and Sherman seemed in the way.  It seemed
that for every moment that aimed for clever transformation of the
original-such as the slight transmogrification of Ariel with Caliban, as
Ariel's mother Ezeli, a Mambo priestess, provides Prosper with the
magics which let him control the island (although her appearance as a
spirit, ala Obi-Wan Kenobi or the wizard Shazam, was a little
disconcerting)--there was moment which turned this into a rather
standard tv movie, devoid of the complications inherent in the
Tempest-such as the move at the end to discard all the problems in
Prosper's character, and have him help the North when their battles
against the racist south.  I think, had the pc overtones (where our one
easy villain these days is the old Confederate) been left out, this
would have worked as entertainment.  As it is, this is a complex mix of
literary text, literary transformation, cinematic spectacle, and moral
tale.  Dropping in one of these elements and tightening it up a bit
would surely have helped, although, as it is, we do have yet another
Tempest which refuses to spin its storm in the "standard" setting.

--Hugh Davis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sally Schutz <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 14 Dec 1998 16:44:50 PST
Subject:        Re:  T.V. Tempest

I couldn't agree more on Ms. Barton's views of the Tempest. To rip out
Shakespeare's language, one of his most important gifts to the world, is
to destroy his work. The life is taken out and I cannot on any level
advocate this impending monstrosity. -Sally Schutz
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.