Cai Samphire: Film Review

Twelfth Night by Trevor Nunn is a highly enjoyable adaption of the play. Throughout the entire film, the idea of gender role reversals and the hi-jinx that comes with it is never forgotten, along with the small hints of dramatic irony in the entire film. A lot of the strengths in Nunn’s adaption come from the use of sound. Dialogue is never lost in the scenes, and there were a few instances of song which bridged awkward gaps or helped establish character. For example, take the scene where Feste is singing O Mistress Mine.

The way that the scene is laid out is fairly expressive of the entire movie. Everything before this scene was setting up the relationships and characters. It is this scene that really sets the tone and begins the hi-jinx in the movie. Cutting between Olivia and Orsino’s court, there is a musical bridge between the entire scene. Originally sung by Feste (and sung by him in every clip at Olivia’s estate), the song still continues at Orsino’s court. The difference between the two courts are the instrumentation, with one being accordion and the other piano respectively. Yet both of these instruments play well to the emotions presented by the lyrics and what we’ve seen of the characters emotions. For the main three at this time, being Viola, Olivia and Orsino, the song helps solidify their emotions towards each other. Yet the song also provides a chance to expand on the secondary characters and the B plot, particularly highlighting the as of-yet unknown feelings between Sir Toby and Maria. This is particularly highlighted in the last quatre (around the three minute mark), when Maria joins Feste in singing. I generally found that it was this scene that the rest of the movie was based on, solely for how it feels and how it interacts with the characters, helping to highlight the awkward love triangle, but doing nothing to solve it.

This situation is wonderfully shown through the entire movie. Every scene is created to either showcase the awkward love affair between the members of both courts, or to taunt and tease the viewers through dramatic irony. In making use of what is particularly helpful through film, there are a few key moments where what would normally be said aloud was put into voice over.

Take the scene about. While the poster cut out a few shots in certain areas, the clip still serves to highlight what is important about the dialogue. In two different instances, the dialogue is cut out from the normal and is linked to enhance a meaning through montage. The first is around the thirty second mark, where Olivia is shown to be elated and happy for the first time in months through the use of voice over, allowing her to show facial expressions where otherwise dialogue would have been needed. Around the one minute mark, the same thing happens, only this time Viola is the speaker, and the text highlights her empathy towards loving someone who cannot reciprocate the feelings, cutting to Olivia sleeping. This happens a few more times in the film, and it’s a strength that the film has over a traditional theatre approach. And it is this feeling that the whole movie hinges on.

Take this scene, where Orsino and Viola are listening to Feste. In a normal situation this wouldn’t be an issue, but because of the secrets being kept, the scene it is suspenseful for the viewers. It is made even worse through good use of camera work, started with a medium shot and slowly working to a close up by the end. This slowly increases the intimacy of the scene for the viewers, suggestion the same feelings to us as are being portrayed on screen by Viola. This is juxtaposed by the cuts to Feste and his look of almost confusion by the goings on.

This version of Twelfth Night is a highly entertaining use of ones times. Every decision made is made with the express intent on making the gender dynamics of the movie more defined and the to highlight the absurdity of it all. While there is a B plot in what goes on with Malvolio, Sir Toby and Maria, even that helps to highlight the intensity of loving those who you must. Ever small detail in accounted for, with a large portion of the film providing foreshadowing and dramatic irony to the viewers. It is a cleverly done film well worth the watch.

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