Team A: Team Project

MinuteMaidProductions

Shakespeare’s portrayal of Henry V is concerned with the nature of power and how it influences one’s morality. Henry must grow in his role as king, acting in a way that his newfound leadership demands of him. Our film reflects on Shakespeare’s suggestion that morality becomes obscured in relation to power. The first interpretation of Henry’s actions depicts him as remorseful of his obligatory punishment of the traitors, the second as ruthless and unapologetic. We drew inspiration from mobster movies, like The Godfather, and explored how cinematic elements can influence the viewer’s perception of the same characters.

Henry V: Act II, Scene II

In each interpretation, we altered lines to manipulate characters’ motives and the scene dynamic. In Take A, Henry is disappointed that Scroop and Cambridge are unforgiving toward the criminal. He wishes to show them mercy regardless of their betrayal but is duty-bound. In Take B, however, Henry is dark and ruthless towards the traitors, paralleled to his cold rejection of former companions. Actors also interpreted these script alterations. Henry is visibly sad, emotional and conflicted in Take A while being indifferent in B. Westmorland and Exeter also set a distinct tone for each take.

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Altered Lines

We used lighting, costumes, camera-angles, and sound to contrast character-traits and consequently, the mood of each scene. Take A’s lighting is bright and open; Henry is positioned against a glass background. B is contrasted using stark, closed-off paneling with heavy shadows. Costume changes depict characters as light or dark, which also containing visual symbols of their betrayal or virtue. We made use of camera angles to manipulate a power dynamic between Henry and the traitors. Low and high angle shots establish dominance and exchange of power. Melancholic or dangerous soundtracks evoke danger, emotion or a sense of injustice within the viewer.

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Costumes

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Pavneet Pahwa: Notes Reflection

Shakespeare is seen as a challenge by most English students all over the world. His language is flowery and pleasant to hear, but also rather daunting to try and understand. Archaic vocabulary, historical context, bizarre sentence structure, and an abundance of literary devices further contribute to a much denser layer of complexity in his work. Exposure to this madness over the years, however, has resulted in the development of my own method of comprehension which I will be discussing in this blog post.

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My journey of a play-text begins with a list of roles which I translate into a character tree. Details are added as more of the play’s context is revealed through online research, footnotes, as well as the advancement of the plot. Keeping this tree chart available as a guide throughout, I read an online summary of each act just prior to engaging with the text. I follow along the play using an unbiased, non-dramatized LibriVox-Audiobook recording to stay on track while keeping the words open to interpretation. Already having a gist of the plot enables me to focus on Shakespeare’s interpretive choices as I highlight all the textual features that make a strong first impression, taking notes in the margins. A dictionary is kept accessible at all times.

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Monologues and exchanges that seem most important to plot and character development are marked with sticky-notes, to be analyzed more closely once the whole play has been read. Then, the chosen lines are read aloud and more slowly to attend to details. I divide the text into sections, if possible, based on apparent shifts in form, language and/or semantics, as recommended by Dr. Ullyot. The use of literary techniques is further categorized using a table that I created based on Dr. Ullyot’s expectations for close reading, to ensure that no significant aspect is overlooked. Keeping patterns in mind, I utilize the table to jot down the effects of the literary features used, in addition to categorizing them. This highlights the importance of their employment while also actualizing the awareness that one is being manipulated by Shakespeare (accidentally and/or deliberately) in the subtlest of ways.

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In contrast, influence over the audience is much more deliberate, pronounced, and yet easily discounted by the untrained eye when it comes to cinema. Having freely interpreted the words of the author from my own perspective, I then allow directors to sweep me into their narrower adaptation of the same. Impactful scenes are paused, rewound and replayed several times with a table of key elements, a pen, and a notebook at my disposal, in order to implement disciplined focus, given the much faster pace of films. The first thing I note down is a brief description of the setting being portrayed in the film, how similar or different it is from what Shakespeare or I may have imagined, and how it enhances the story as a whole. I usually have the book in front of me to get a sense of the proportion of text that has been shown, as opposed to being told.

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Direction and camera are arguably the most crucial components of the visual aspect of cinema. I take note of the general type, pattern, and point of view of the film shots. The strategy behind editing and splicing the same is noted along with the genre, pace and rhythm of the music being employed. Similarly, I look for iconic moments created by actors based on their individual interpretations of the characters, intertwined with those of the director. The chemistry between, and the (gradual or sudden) shifts in these cinematic elements (Crowl, 2007) is an important aspect of my film analyses. I follow up with reading the recommended critiques, learning about the director’s signature style, and watching interviews, further unveiling the thought processes behind some of the creative decisions witnessed on screen.

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After having collected, categorized and described the evidence from both literature and film in a segregated manner, I begin to seek patterns across my notes for strong, recurring themes and well-supported arguments. The success of my inductive analyses is determined by the abundance of quality evidence alluding to each claim or concept. Having clusters of data (though subjective in interpretation), as opposed to outliers, reduces the likelihood of arriving at far-fetched conclusions, paving the way for an effective piece of argumentative writing.

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Works Cited

Crowl, Samuel. Shakespeare and Film: A Norton Guide. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. Print.

Pavneet Pahwa: Scene Comparison

I have chosen to compare Act 2 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet (RJ) directed by Franco Zeffirelli (1968) and by Baz Luhrmann (1996). Zeffirelli’s version is more conservative, conventional, and true to the text. RJ 1996 on the other hand, is a modern adaptation of the same. While both films draw inspiration from the same text in terms of plot, dialogues and themes, their interpretation of the circumstances and the characters is varied.

Zeffirelli (1968) on left Lurhmann (1996) on right

Left (1968); Right (1996)

The characters’ appearance in RJ 1968 is very authentic and historically-correct. The puffy gowns, veils and hairstyles sweep the audience into a different era, and are likely truer to what Shakespeare would have envisioned. Hussey (Juliet in this version) is a baby-faced, wide-eyed girl who looks very young. This is consistent with the 16th-century setting of the film where marriages occurred at a tender age. Danes (Juliet in RJ 1996), on the contrary, looks older and wiser in comparison. While still dressed appropriately for their roles, the costumes of the characters are significantly less elaborate and more modern—compatible with Lurhmann’s contemporary setting, enriched with technology such as cars, cameras, etc.

Zeffirelli (1968) on top; Lurhmann (1996) at bottom

Top (1968); Right (1996)

The lines, “What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot…” are a part of both versions of RJ. Hussey is hopeful and dreamy about renouncing their names to be together while Danes seems to reason with reality. She even gives the words “any other part/ Of a man,” a playful twist, hinting at male anatomy, which is more acceptable for her character and the time. In the text, Juliet talks to Romeo about coming across as easy: “…if thou think’st I am too quickly won,/ I’ll frown and be perverse and say thee nay…” These line are present in RJ 1968, and add to the portrayal of an innocent Juliet who does not want to play hard-to-get like other girls. On the contrary, saying such a thing would not be true to Lurhmann’s feistier Juliet and is hence omitted. This difference of character is also seen in the way both the Juliet’s report to their mother in the play—one is very obedient while the other’s tone suggests that she is the mistress of her own will.

Zeffirelli (1968) on right; Lurhmann (1996) on left

Left (1968); Right (1996)

While Zeffirelli’s RJ is more theatrical and dramatic, Lurhmann’s depict a more realistic version of young love. Romeo and Juliet (1968) come across as innocent, humble and flawless souls—almost verging on being surreal. Their 1996 versions however, are deliberately portrayed as immature teenagers. The line, “Therefore thy kinsmen are no let to me,” is said loudly by Romeo in both films. Leonard Whiting says it out of passionate love while DiCaprio’s interpretation of it is more rebellious. He stands taller and shouts into the distance, intending for “the kins” to hear his words, knowing full well, the dangers of being a Montague on Capulet property. A similar sense of carelessness is seen when DiCaprio climbs the walls and creates a lot of ruckus and noise as opposed to Whiting, whose entry and climbing are a lot quieter and controlled.

3:45-4:00 (Zeffirelli, 1968)

The intimacy between Romeo and Juliet is more physical and abundant in Lurhmann’s version. Low angle shots of Juliet being admired by Romeo from a distance are soon followed by Juliet coming down to the garden where Romeo sneaks up from behind her. The garden, lighting and pool add to the sensuality of the scene. The lack of sound maintains focus on the conversation while adding to the realism of the film. Romantic, harmonious music then plays and gradually gains intensity alongside the scene as the couple makes promises. Physical interaction between the lovers is limited in Zeffirelli’s RJ, and rightly so, in synchrony with the conservative atmosphere of the era. Their proximity is also physically limited by a thick balcony railing. The use of mid and eye-level camera angles in this film is basic and non-impactful. Romantic music plays in the beginning when Romeo admires Juliet secretly, stops when they are talking, and then resumes when they make promises. This use of classic dramatic music adds to the theatrical air of RJ 1968.

0:00-0:37 Lurhmann, 1996

In conclusion, both films are a tribute to Shakespeare, and prove yet again, that his plays can be film material after all. While both of these versions of RJ have their own place in cinema, I think that Lurhmann’s take on it is more unique and does a better job of drawing in the audience. The realistic modern-day interpretation of the same themes makes the film more relatable and impactful for me.