In Julie Taymor’s The Tempest (2010), Shakespeare’s dialogue is adhered to very accurately, while the visual components of the movie created by the actors, directors, and editors, are sometimes encapsulating, but at times gaudy. I find that the actors and actresses represent Shakespeare’s characters very precisely and animatedly. However, the visual effects and music feel misplaced in relation to Shakespeare’s text and their bizarre nature often distracts from the storyline.
While Ben Whishaw’s acting conveys Ariel’s nymph-like personality well, I find Ariel is portrayed in a dizzying manner in terms of the effects. The computer animated attempts to make Ariel into a spirit are rather over the top and silly, making it hard to take Ariel as being eerie. The overused double image of Ariel that trails behind him as he floats around is very unrealistic. While a spirit should be inhuman in some way, the visual effects seem to be a result of trying too hard to make him into something fantastical.
A specific example of the effects associated with Ariel’s character in The Tempest occurs ten minutes into the movie when Ariel tells Prospero of the torment he inflicted on the ship. A flashback shows Ariel, who is now as large as the ship and covered in flames, poking the ship with fire while strange theatrical metal-type music is playing. The scene is completely overpowering, taking away from the actual situation. Even as Ariel is telling Prospero about the fire he inflicted on the ship, there is the same electric guitar music in the background of their speech, which doesn’t match the situation accurately.
In Act 3: Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s play, shortly after the magical feast appears before Alonso and the other men, Shakespeare writes, “Thunder and lightning. Enter ARIEL, like a harpy; claps his wings upon the table; and, with a quaint device, the banquet vanishe”. Google defines harpy as, “a rapacious monster described as having a woman’s head and body and a bird’s wings and claws.” While Ariel is a male in both the text and movie, the movie’s interpretation does reasonably well to depict him as a harpy by making him into a crow-like creature that is completely black. Although the effects in this scene are again overbearing, he is definitely creepy and threatening, which conveys the fright and suddenness of the situation.
In Act 4: Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s text, a “masque” is performed by the spirits that involves conversation, dancing, and singing. The masque is a representation of marriage, and meant to be entertaining for Miranda and Ferdinand. However, in the movie it is an extremely brief scene of hardly a minute consisting of constellations, brief white images of humans and doves, swirling patterns and numbers, and eerie music. These images and the music do not portray the celebratory marriage ritual that occurs in Shakespeare’s text. I think it would have been more satisfactory to leave this scene out entirely rather than have a quick rendition of it, because it didn’t represent the images or purpose provoked by Shakespeare’s text. Rather, the meaning was entirely different and therefore confusing.
In Act 5: Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s text, Miranda and Ferdinand are found playing chess by Prospero, and Alonso is happily reunited with his son. The scene occurs in the same manner in the movie and there is a very effective shot of Miranda looking down at the multitude of new humans. The camera starts with a close-up on her face and zooms out to a long shot of her speaking, revealing Ferdinand, her mother, and the four other men. In both text and on screen, Miranda says how “the beauteous mankind” amazes her. The shot is very effective in conveying her amazement and innocence in this situation.
The acting and adherence to Shakespeare’s dialogue make Taymor’s The Tempest an accurate depiction of Shakespeare’s text, highlighting the romance, eeriness, and comedy in the storyline. The editing in the movie is also sufficient, being neither too choppy or staying on the same shot for too long, but the computer generated imagery and music are very poorly done and distract from these better qualities.
The Tempest (2010) can be watched here:
Google Search. Harpy. 14 October 2016. Web.
Shakespeare, William. “The Tempest.” http://shakespeare.mit.edu/tempest/full.html. Accessed 14 October 2016.