Trevor Nunn’s Twelfth Night or What You Will is a wonderful adaptation of one of William Shakespeare’s many comedy of errors. It opens with a montage of a ship wreck and introduces us to Viola and Sebastian. This montage informs they audience of what has gotten us here. When Twelfth Night would have been performed originally there would have been an opening speech to the audience. The speech would explain in brief what has happened to lead us to now. It lays out of the circumstances of the play. This was done because much of the audience would have been illiterate and would have no idea what was going on other wise. This montage serves the same function. It sets up the story for those who are unfamiliar. This opening montage is then followed by a shot of the character Feste sitting on the cliffs above watching everything. This is foreshowing on Nunn’s part as Feste will act as a guide for all the events that follow. His guiding or meddling starts with Lady Olivia. He is the fool or clown in her house. Although Feste is a fool and makes his way in between the two main house holds he is often seen as the wisest character.
The errors begin with Viola now disguised as her brother who she assumes to be dead. She is now Cesario and working for Orsino the Duke of Illyria. Orsino is in love with Olivia and after many failed attempts at courting her he now sends Cesario. This does not have the desired effect as Olivia falls for Cesario and not Orsino. As Cesario is walking away from Olivia she beings to understand how she feels. This is communicated to the audience by a soliloquy. Half of it is in voice over and the other spoken by Olivia aloud. This tactic that Nunn put into use lets the audience know it is her inner most thoughts that are being displayed. It also stays true to the function of a soliloquy. To let the audience know what a character is thinking. This voice over tactic is used to the same effectiveness later on in the film with Viola. While all of this is happening the film cuts to different scenery all together to inform us that Sebastian is still alive. More foreshadowing of the confusion to come now that there are two Sebastian’s running around.
Due to the amount of scenes in which it is required to see the reactions of many people there is a mix of panning and quick shots throughout the film. The panning shots are helpful for scenes like when Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek are eavesdropping on Malvolio. They play a bit of cat and mouse around a hedge. By panning across what is happening I get to see all of the action. Sir Toby and Sir Andrew are tricking Malvolio into thinking Lady Olivia is in love with him. When really the letter he is reading was written by Maria. The hedge provides coverage for them but as a viewer I am still able to see them. This makes it a smart directorial choice as a setting for the scene. This letter in the end makes Malvolio go mad. He is so sure of the Lady’s he loses all reasoning when it comes to the situation.
The quick shots are sprinkled throughout the film. In the end when the truth comes out there is a build up of quicker shots then Viola and Sebastian are reunited and the shots slow. At the same music begins to swell in the back ground. It all helps build to a emotional reunion between brother and sister. Once the air is clear and celebrations start the shots of the camera are looking through the crowd. That is apparent because you see a bit of arm of hat in the side of the frame. It illustrates that we are indeed watching the events unravel. Watching being the key term.
These shots could also play into the fact that Feste has been watching and pulling the strings the entire time. His involvement throughout is bookended with the song he sings at the end. As it is played in the very opening of the film as well. The idea that he has led me through my watching is solidified with the final shot of the film. A fourth wall break by Feste to let me know he knows I have been watching this entire time.