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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: March ::
Re: Film and Other Adaptations
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0868  Thursday, 28 March 2002

[1]     From:   Janet Costa <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Mar 2002 12:25:47 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0851 Re: Film and Other Adaptations

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Mar 2002 17:08:22 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0851 Re: Film and Other Adaptations

[3]     From:   Susanne Collier <
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        Date:   Thursday, 21 Mar 2002 17:04:26 -0800
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0851 Re: Film and Other Adaptations


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Janet Costa <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Mar 2002 12:25:47 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0851 Re: Film and Other Adaptations
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0851 Re: Film and Other Adaptations

In response to Mari Bonomi's comments on an RnJ interpretation, I was
reminded of a performance by the English Shakespeare Company's Education
Department. It was a sci-fi treatment and very well received by the
teenage audience. I think the key to her comments is the statement "I am
a conservative'. No where does WS offer a definition of 'dignity', as
with many other descriptive terms throughout the play. The Montagues and
the Capulets are simply 'two households in fair Verona'. Most of the
'conservative' interpretations rely heavily on sources outside WS's play
and on the Victorian presentations, not WS. Therefore, the door is open
to portray them as whatever social classes may seem relevant to the
director, as in the last two productions at the RSC.

The modern playwrights mentioned, Ibsen, Williams, and Miller (and
probably most especially Williams), do not leave this kind of room for
interpretation. In Ibsen, there is only one way for A Doll's House to
end: Nora must close the door. Williams' stage directions are sometimes
more poetic than the text of the play itself. The Glass Menagerie,
Suddenly Last Summer, and A Streetcar Named Desire all have very
specific demands made by Williams himself. For him, these demands, such
as the apratment, the conservatory, and the tenement, reflect both on
the plays as a whole and the actions of the characters. Miller, as a
still living playwright, has some control over how his plays are
presented. The Crucible can only be in Massacusetts during the witch
trials, and Incident at Vichy can only be in that train station with
Nazis. In my directorial experience, Tom Stoppard is one playwright
familiar enough with the actual workings of the stage to give some
flexibility to interpretation, but not very much. David Mamet too holds
his plays in tight rein.

However, when it comes to WS, the evolution of stage space and
technology not only allows what some might call 'tinkering' with the
text, but in some staging, demands it. How do you stage a heath and the
witches in the Scottish play? How does Marina come out of the sea? How
does Hermione come back to life? Somehow it all takes you back to the
Chorus at the beginning of Henry V and 'your imaginary forces'.

And it is here that I think Brian Willis in his comments reminds us
quite firmly that just as theatre practice itself is not written in
stone, film as its 'sometime sister' should not be confined by
prejudices toward execution. I think Brian is simply asking for filmed
Shakespeare to be given the advantage of analysis by open minds, not
burdened with the baggage of instituitonalised performance history,
custom, and conservatism.  Film and adaptations are to performance what
Lewis and Clark were to exploration: vehicles to discover anew and
're-see' Shakespeare.

Janet

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Mar 2002 17:08:22 -0800
Subject: 13.0851 Re: Film and Other Adaptations
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0851 Re: Film and Other Adaptations

David Wallace reports that

>for me, the film [O] adhered so closely to Othello in its structure that the
>ghost of Shakespeare's play kept superimposing itself over every scene.
>In each instance that the film directly echoed a scene from the play I
>found the dialogue especially tired and trite. I teach in a high school
>and the dialogue assigned these characters bears small resemblance to
>the colourful, profane, and idiomatic dialect spoken by my students. I
>could have more readily tucked Shakespeare's verse to the back of my
>mind had the dialogue in the film more successfully captured the poetry
>of the youthful jargon I am already accustomed to hearing. The dialogue
>felt flat and generic.

I thought it wonderfully restrained, as when Hugo responds to Odin's
plans to kill Desi with "That's a big step", or when he responds to
Emilia's "I have a thing for you" with "You have a thing for a lot of
guys".  I just quoted Desi's father's explanation that "she lied to me"
to my class this afternoon.

The strongest part, really, struck me as the ending, with Odin's
complete incomprehension of Hugo's (still, apparently) motiveless
malignancy, and his insistence on being remembered as a victim, not just
a black kid who went nuts.  "Report me as I am" never made more sense.
Overall, I seriously think that this is one of the best Shakespeare
adaptations since Kurosawa died.

While I'm responding to this digest, I would like to respond to Mari
Bonomi's posting, simply by hoping that the production she describes
rises to the philosophical heights of the Matrix (imagine Plato's cave
run by Descartes's evil genius) or Bladerunner (I always think of an
essay by Cavell, not about Shakespeare but about how to tell a robot
from a real person).

Cheers,
Se

 

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