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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: July ::
Pandaemonium
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1647  Tuesday, 16 July 2002

From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Jul 2002 11:19:02 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Pandaemonium

Yesterday, I saw the film "Pandaemonium", based on the creative
relationship of Wordsworth and Coleridge.  It both thrilled and
astonished me in its daring. At the same time it got so many things
right and so many things wrong.

It reminded me of our discussions regarding creative license and a duty
to convey a tradition or a consistency in storytelling. Although I
enjoyed the visual representations of Coleridge's most famous poems, I
found the historical inaccuracies to be overwhelming and eventually too
heavy to support the picture, particularly in the final half hour.

While Shakespeare in Love is a fun film, one which proclaims from the
opening sequence that we should not necessarily take its "biography" too
seriously, Pandaemonium places itself firmly in the biographical world
of the Lyrical Ballads poets and then takes grievous liberties with
their lives. Although I was glad to see Coleridge portrayed as the more
brilliant thinker and poet and Wordsworth as the more arrogant prig of
the two, the film went too far. Coleridge was TOO romanticized and
Wordsworth became absolutely ineffectual as a poet. This was clearly not
the case historically. Coleridge was not Mozart and Wordsworth Salieri.

Dorothy also became a romantic interest for STC. A terrible mistake by
the screenwriter. Norman and Stoppard could create a Viola DeLesseps for
Shakespeare because we still speculate on such matters. The journals of
Dorothy Wordsworth and the letters of STC make it abundantly clear that
no liaison or even romantic affection ever took place.  Moreover, STC's
REAL platonic illicit love interest, Sara Hutchinson, was conveniently
deleted from his life. The final straw comes when Dorothy begins taking
opium, reduces her brain to jelly, and Wordsworth is embarrassed
publicly by Coleridge (which never did nor could have happened,
especially since it was not in STC's character).

Sometimes, I feel that liberties can be taken with artistic texts. Sh.
in Love even proved that one can play around at biography to a certain
limit. I just felt that Pandaemonium could have stuck true to the
biographical figures and to their lives, based on what we know of them.
But then again, I suppose Salieri fans are probably still mad at Peter
Shaffer.

Nonetheless, I was glad to an extent to see these people and their
wonderful and vibrant ideas on film.  :) It is about time.

One last thing: the arrival of Byron at the beginning of the film is one
of the funniest things I have seen in a long time.

Brian Willis

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