I was immediately intrigued by the opening scene of Trevor Nunn’s Twelfth Night or What You Will when we were shown a clip in class and so it was an easy decision to write my film review on this specific film. I found that with the breathtaking location choices to the purposeful use of light and dark I was drawn into the film and the story yet not overwhelmed by one particular film technique. A compelling choice of Shakespeare’s original text was used and unfamiliar words were swapped for specific words more understandable for modern audience. I found this technique would likely be useful in allowing a wider audience to enjoy one of Shakespeare’s best (in my opinion) comedic romances.
In act one, scene five, when Viola disguised as Cesario and Olivia meet for the first time, Viola is brought into a dark room where it is hard to see much of anything. There is no sound except for the soft clicking of a clock. This choice of natural lighting and lack of music work well with Violas initial confusion and consistent request for confirmation that Olivia is indeed the lady of the house. As the text between Viola and Olivia becomes more personal, we see a pique in Olivia’s interest through close camera shots of her big expressive eyes and we see Viola thrust open the curtains to blind Olivia with light. We see the two end the visit on an intimate note out in the garden with Viola yelling “Olivia!” bolding and much to Olivia’s pleasant surprise, seen through an up close shot of Olivia’s expression. They are fully in the light of the sun. Olivia has moved from a dark sorrowful place to a light loving place, both personally and visually.
In act two, scene four, we find Viola, Orsino and Feste alone in a small, dark lit cabin. This is not similar to Shakespeare’s original text as there is a larger group written in the original, however, the dialogue between the characters is similar and Feste’s song is identical. Once again, I found the choice of natural lighting worked well with the scene, it is intimate and allows for the audience to behold a very close and seductive relationship between Viola and Orsino. As Feste is singing the camera breaks between short shots of Feste singing and longer, slower shots of Viola and Orsino moving their heads closer to one other and almost kissing. The darkness and natural lighting, the low, soft music and slow camera movements makes for a very intimate scene.
The final scene of the play is act five, scene one. Although this is not the last scene of the movie, it is, in my opinion, the most tense. We watch quick shots as the quarrel and confusion escalade between the characters. The look of confusion on Olivia’s face when she first welcomes Viola and Orsino to her home is a choice by actress Helena Bonham Carter to show her confusion as to why her ‘husband’ has arrived with Orsino and seems just fine with Orsino’s expression of adoration without her having to say a word. The scene continues through quick up close shots and longer wide angle shots while we watch the cast and the emotion grow. The perplexity and then clarity on the actors faces brings the audience to the climax as we watch the slow lingering shot of Olivia and her words, straight from Shakespeare’s text, “most wonderful”.
The use of music, scene location and natural lighting, as well as the choice exerts from Shakespeare’s original text created an intense build up and finale that was exactly what the audience would have been waiting for. As the film closes there is sequence of long shots with the characters dispersing towards their futures and Feste dancing merrily away singing; as an audience it feels we have been given a fair and comfortable ending.