Richard III is a historic play detailing the conniving actions of Richard of Gloucester. Richard is seen as a sociopathic prince of York, with no apparent conscience to drive him away from wrongdoing. With this in mind, he sets upon a brutal crusade to take the English throne, slaying down family, friend and foe alike on his path of ruin. This iteration of Richard III takes place in pre-World War II England, where the era has been slightly skewed to depict England as a somewhat fascist version of it’s original pre-World War II self.
This detail of a more fascist England runs hand in hand with Richard’s appearance, where he is made out to appear as a Nazi in terms of dress and the events throughout the movie. During his coronation, he is seen in similar garb to the original World War II fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, complete with a large banner behind him, emblazoned with his crest, and his people before him wielding banners of the same red hue, which is also symbolic of the original Nazi color scheme. This theme of Nazism may also be seen within his soldiers and compatriots, as they all wear a similar Nazi garb as well as perform similar Nazi-like actions, such as marching in a way that is akin to Nazi goose-stepping.The film does justice towards the appearance of a negatively natured Richard of Gloucester, where he is given both apparel of Nazi design and is seen to wear almost only dark colours, which reflects both his devious malevolent actions and his malicious intent. His companions, such as Tyrell, reflect a similar garb, although their’s are usually not quite as dark or well-adorned as Richard’s, which shows that they may be just as malicious, but do not contain such malevolent intent as Richard does. Lord Rivers’ appearance supports this idea of the cloth dictating the morality of the individual. Lord Rivers’ is consistently seen wearing very light colors, such as a white suit jacket coupled with a white shirt and bowtie, or a simple white shirt worn under a beige vest. Rivers’ is seen in constant opposition of Richard and his propositions, such as regarding who will take the throne following Kind Edward’s death.
Richard’s vindictive actions all had a beginning, however, and we may see them begin to unfold within his meeting with Lady Anne Neville in the morgue, whilst she grieves over her recently deceased husband. Their dialogue begins with the pair pacing around the table which holds the deceased Prince Edward, while Richard slowly begins to draw a cover over Edward. This may be symbolically seen as Richard forcing Lady Anne to end her grieving of Edward, or allowing her to make peace. Following this, Richard briefly consoles her, complementing her on her beauty, before describing to her that her husband was dead on her behalf, as Richard was driven to do so he could be alongside Lady Anne instead of Prince Edward. He goes as far as to asking for Lady Anne to either “take up the blade again, or take up me”, instilling in her the belief that he does feel guilt for the actions he took. Following this he holds the knife to his neck, feigning suicide to force Lady Anne into admitting that she does wish Richard to remain alive, regardless of her husband’s passing. After Lady Anne wishes for Richard to remain alive so they may be together, Richard departs, followed by his exuberant soliloquy to the audience that he was merely playing her as a fool to his plans. This scene in particular does well to resonate with Richard’s truly nefarious ideals as well as his sociopathic nature.
The final scene of the Richard III depicts Richard, now King, being assaulted by the recently returned Richmond’s soldiers. Richard briefly takes up a large machinegun, uselessly spewing bullets into the air as if to slow his demise or prevent his death, which he already knows will come soon at this point. This scene does not seem to embrace the original feel of the play, where in the film Richard seems to have almost completely lost his crippled appearance and figure, he spryly strides across the battlefield, vainly fleeing from Richmond. The play also depicts the pair fighting, where Richmond alone brings a final end to the conflict and bloodthirsty campaign of Richard. However, the film shows Richard falling into a large explosion, smiling as he falls, all to the tune of an upbeat swing song. These few facts show that while he has finally been defeated, he may not have entirely lost, as he tore down the English hierarchy and left the majority of England once again wrapped up in civil war turmoil. Finally, Richmond is seen flashing the camera, and potentially audience, a quick smile, which may allude to the idea that he could have just as much malicious intent as Richard.
I believe the film as a whole remarks a solid interpretation of Shakespeare’s RIchard III, depicting a more modern take on the traditional historic play. It brings light to the power of pure dark intent, and Sir Ian McKellen does the film justice through his ability channel Richard of Gloucester, by changing his facial features and apparent emotions on a whim, sociopathically trying to take advantage of the events at hand.