The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0806 Monday, 3 May 1999.
Date: Sunday, 02 May 1999 22:54:35 -0700
Subject: Shakespeare in Cinema
I apologize if this is old news, but I don't think I have seen it
mentioned on this list or in the archives, so I will mention it
briefly. In the BBC series "Fortunes of War," based on Olivia Manning's
double trilogy (sexology?) and starring Emma Thompson and Kenneth
Branagh together for the first time as Harriet and Guy Pringle, the
characters mount a production of "Troilus and Cressida" at the beginning
of WWII in order to at once express their feelings of desolation and
doom, and yet to also give themselves hope. Paris falls on their
opening night and the black-and-white documentary scenes of the Nazi's
triumphant entry are intercut with brief excerpts of the band of British
soon-to-be-refugees performing the play; it is amazing and sobering to
see the Shakespeare illustrating the modern world so completely; it is
as if through the actors he is himself directly commenting on our own
time. It is one of the best examples of the power of art to express and
relieve overpowering emotions which I have seen in cinema.
I believe Manning chose her title based on the ending couplet of the
Like or find fault, do as your pleasures are,
Now good or bad, 'tis but the chance of war.
As Anne Barton writes in her introduction to the play in the "Riverside"
edition: "There is no record of any performance of this play before
1898. Since the Second World War it has scarcely left the stage...."
Ironically enough the production of "Troilus and Cressida" in Manning's
book takes place in the Balkans. I have heard that Susan Sontag staged
"Waiting for Godot" in Yugoslavia, while there was still a unified
country, presumably to illustrate how the region was waiting for some
kind of intervention?