Mark Borissov: Film Review | Henry V

Film and theater are alike in many ways. If it wasn’t for the popularity of theater, we would probably not have the innovative storytelling power of film we do today. However, there are many differences between the two mediums: there are things audiences needs to be told during plays in order to understand what can easily just be shown in film, and there are qualities of theater that film cannot capture with a camera. It’s easiest to see the disparities between film and theater in a film adaptation of a play. In film adaptations of William Shakespeare’s work, for instance, directors have to make choices in regards to what to keep and what to omit from the original texts, as well as what stylistic choices they themselves what to add in order to appeal to the film audience, all while in the constraints of film as a medium. Kenneth Branagh makes many of these choices in his film adaption of Shakespeare’s Henry V. I shall discuss these choices, and the differences between the original play and Branagh’s film version, specifically viewing and reading into act i scene ii.

Branagh’s act i scene ii starts right after the credits, after his own cinematic interpretation of the prologue, and his short conversation between Canterbury and Ely. The scene begins with a shot of a grand door opening, and Branagh as King Henry walking through it, spliced with a shot of his men standing around, only to order themselves onto either side of the screen as they see their king arrive, all while tense up-tempo music plays. These two shots introducing the king and his men is used to separate the two, having the king appear as a sovereign, alone, separate from all other men, and the men as servants of his majesty. As the king continues through the hall, he passes the faces of his men, introducing their characters. Finally, as the king sits in his throne, the music stops and he speaks for the first time: “Where is my gracious Lord of Canterbury?”

In order to fit the contents of the play into the medium of film, and at the same time retains its audience’s attention, Branagh cuts much of the original text in his adaptation. This cutting not only removes expository information Branagh deems less important, it also removes some of the lyrical elements of Shakespeare’s text, making the dialog more conversational, and therefore more easily understood by a contemporary audience. An example of the text being cut in order to get rid of unimportant exposition would be after King Henry asks for the Lord of Canterbury. In the original text Exeter and Westmoreland actually answer Henry, but in the film adaptation Branagh skips this dialog to instead have Canterbury arrive immediately, almost as if he was summoned. Thinking about it, this all seems rather nonsensical, a king asking a question without anyone answering, only to have the person he is looking for miraculously appear. However, this cutting of dialog allows Branagh to maintain the rhythm and tone of his scene, making the transition between Henry asking for Lord Canterbury and him actually arriving so smooth that the viewer doesn’t notice anything awkward about it. An example of Branagh removing text to retain his audience’s attention, and assist in their understanding of the play, would be Lord Canterbury’s long speech about salique law. Being an intentionally long and convoluted passage, Branagh cuts much of this text’s exposition, while at the same time retaining enough of it to maintain the original intent of the text. Pausing before the sarcastic “so that, as clear as is the summer’s sun” line, and cutting to laughter around the room, Branagh emphasizes that the barrage or names and information is intended to be confusing.

This scene of Branagh’s raises the question; is wrong for Branagh to omit so much of the original text, but include a minute-long sequence of himself walking through a hall? I would argue that he makes the right decision, for this sequence shows much of King Henry’s character that the stripped down script only skims over. It shows a king who’s isolated in his God like power, his circumstance being bestowed by God himself. A king whose men’s passing faces influence his own judgement. Although it’s a shame to miss some of Shakespeare’s beautiful language, Branagh’s ability to develop something like character without any dialog using his own stylistic choices is what separates the capabilities of film from theater.

Andre Retuta: Film Review

Zeffirelli’s rendition of Hamlet (1990) was really interesting to me right from when I first saw it, which is roughly around a couple of years ago.  It is probably my favorite Shakespeare play, regardless of how limited my knowledge of his productions is.

The first time I saw the film, I was intrigued right away by the dark ambience that started the whole movie.  I have always been a fan of movies with a sombre tone which is probably another reason why Zeffirelli’s Hamlet, compared to other renditions, is my favorite.  One thing that I noticed about Zeffirelli’s Hamlet though, is its immediate divergence from Shakespeare’s original script.  The original script opens with the traditional sequence involving the sighting of the ghost of Hamlet’s father, while Zeffirelli’s opening is instead a funeral sequence of his own design.  We understand right away how much Hamlet distrusts his uncle Claudius, shown in the opening scene where Claudius starts speaking with Hamlet.  The lines “think of us as of a father; for let the world take note you are the most immediate to our throne, and with no less nobility of love than that which dearest father bears his son do I impart toward you.” show Claudius’ attempt at good intentions, while Hamlet’s response shows the distrust he holds for him.


While we see right away the conflict between Hamlet and Claudius, we also continue to unravel the fact that Hamlet holds his father in the highest regard as opposed to how he holds Claudius, and this is then consistently reinforced all throughout the film.

Somewhat proof of this comparison between Hamlet’s father and Claudius (or lack thereof), is shown in Hamlet’s first monologue.  In this first soliloquy, Hamlet laments about his father compared to Claudius, so delicately captured with the lines “So excellent a king; that was, to this, Hyperion to a satyr…”

In this scene as well, Hamlet expresses his disgust with his mother Gertrude about how his she has now intertwined herself with Claudius after Hamlet’s father’s recent passing.


This is described accurately by the lines “But two months dead! – nay, not so much, not two…” and also “Why, should she hang on him as if increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on: and yet, within a month…”  The scene from the film ended on Hamlet saying “Frailty, thy name is woman!”, which cut off most of Hamlet’s soliloquy written originally, another deviation from Shakespeare’s original piece.


Perhaps the most iconic scene in Hamlet is his famous soliloquy from Act 3, Scene 1.  I really like how Zeffirelli introduces this scene, as he starts of from showing Hamlet’s face portraying pure emotion and then pans through the coffins as if to show a subtle longing for death.  Numerous times do we see Hamlet peering at the coffins, also leaning on them as if talking with the idea of the dead being his only audience.  There are also parts in this scene as well that Hamlet looks up at a beaming light, possibly hoping for answers as he ponders thoughts of suicide, before then stepping back into darkness with suggests once again the conflict in his mind – hence, “to be or not to be”.  Finally, this scene was focused more on Hamlet’s monologue itself, that Zeffirelli did not feel the need to put in any background musical score.  I feel that it really captures Shakespeare’s intent of the moment supposedly being dark and sorrowful, while at the same time being powerful and iconic as well.

As a whole, the film – in my humble opinion – is well made from a simple bystander’s point of view.  It may have had some deviations from the original piece that Shakespeare wrote, however I feel that it still captured the emotion and the message that he originally wanted to portray.  The acting in the film also captures the characters that they are trying to portray, yet also distinguished their own style within the character.

Zeffirelli gave a very refreshing take on one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces, Hamlet.


Katarina Nedeljakova: Film Review

Film Review: Nunn’s Twelfth Night

Nunn's Twelfth Night (1996)

Nunn’s Twelfth Night (1996)

Nunn’s Twelfth Night (1996) is a modern take on the classical Shakespearean comedy. Created during the so-called renaissance of commercialized Shakespeare film in the 1990’s, elements of this play reflect both its predecessor as well as a more modernized style. From a variety of dramatic shots to quickly changing musical scores, contrasting elements of film are used to deepen the sense of drama. Many parallels are also present in the play, carefully placed to emphasize the irony of the play.

What I found noteworthy in Act I was the background music in the opening scene. Once Viola awoke on the beach, a soft orchestra was played as she reminisced over her brother, who she believed had drowned. However as the guards galloped in, the whole mood of the scene changed; in a matter of seconds the audience got the feeling of great urgency simply by changing the score to a fast paced orchestra. This, paired with quick tracking shots of the survivors running through the forest, establishes the setting and the mood (while giving important background information not explicitly stated in the play) in one montage.

There is a powerful parallel also present when Viola first sees Olivia mourning. After questioning the Captain, it is revealed that Olivia’s brother has recently died, mirroring Viola’s situation. Conveyed by flashes between medium and long shots, we are given the impression that even though they have never met, Viola and Olivia are not that different. This scene serves as a precursor to the dramatic irony that Twelfth Night consists of, mostly later on when Olivia falls in love with Viola (disguised as Cesario).Violaolivia

As the film progresses, both contrasts and parallels seen between many of the remaining scenes. When the drunken party is playing music in the kitchen (at 45:00), the same song is played in the background of the scene when Viola and Duke Orsino play a game of cards. This time, the music is a connection between the two scenes instead of a tool used to create contrast as discussed previously. The main difference in the two scenes is the mood. In the scene with Duke Orsino and Viola the background is a reddish hue, giving the viewer gets a sense of warmth and intimacy.

This scene has warmer colors and a more intimate feel

This scene has warmer colors and a more intimate feel

This is intensifies the dramatic irony, as it is obvious to the audience that Viola is in love with Orsino. When the scenes change, it is a stark contrast. Drunk Fester is singing the same song that was playing in the previous scene, but paired with the setting a much colder atmosphere is given. The background has a blue tint and is set in a bare kitchen. However, the acting and close up shots of the listeners’ faces reveal that the Fester’s song also holds some meaning for them.

Festers' drunken singing

Festers’ drunken singing


While this overlap of Act II Scene III and the first half of Act II Scene IV was well done, I was surprised to see that the entirety of Act II Scene IV was not kept as one scene in the film. The second half of Act II Scene IV (as written in the original play) took place much later in the movie and was staged as an argument between Cesario and the Duke. Compared to the intimate moment they shared earlier in the cozy living quarters, this scene took place outdoors with the ocean crashing angrily in the background. This, along with the blue lighting and the rocky setting, gives viewers the impression that Viola is feeling negative emotions. She is distraught and unable to contain her love for the Duke any longer. From the directors and filmmakers perspective, it is understandable that the second half was pushed to later on in the movie, to preserve the slow pacing during the first half of Nunn’s Twelfth Night.

Act II Scene IV pt.2 is a stark contrast to pt.1

Act II Scene IV pt.2 is a stark contrast to pt.1

In my opinion, Nunn balanced the original play with the demand for commercial Shakespeare movies well. He managed to keep the light mood of comedy, while making use of the many elements of film. This included dramatic events that not only set the pace of the movie, but heightened a sense of dramatic irony for the viewer, which is what gave Twelfth Night its riveting feel.

Works Cited:

Shakespeare plays “Twelfth Night”:

Nunn’s Twelfth Night 1996:

Shakespeare and Film, A Norton Guide, Samuel Crowl



Jordin Cummings: Film Review

In this fantastical version of “Romeo + Juliet” Baz Luhrmann keeps the text almost exact but sets the movie in a version of modern days. It is a version of modern days due to the weird mix up Luhrmann has going on. There is slo-motion, increases in time, weird outfits for the Montagues, plus an introduction to a crazy party with pressed pills. This blog post will discuss how Luhrmann adapts the visuals to the text to create a very interesting take on “Romeo and Juliet”.

In Act II Scene II, Luhrmann chooses to shoot the balcony scene in a pool-house. Luhrmann cuts a lot of text in this scene and instead shoots a close up kissing scene with uplifting music. This creates a more sexually charged atmosphere due to the lack of talking and added silky touching. It is clear these teens share a higher level of intimacy even though they just met at a party for what basically amounts to ‘7 minutes in heaven’ but in an elevator. Leonardo DiCaprio shows his take on Romeo as headstrong and carefree when he goes about shouting lines even though they could get caught. Luhrmann gives a true ode to Shakespeare when Claire Danes, Juliet, goes back up to her balcony and DiCaprio climbs the trellis to give her a final kiss.

Nurse in Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” is presented as much more personable and definite comic relief. Moving away from the orchard in Act II Scene V of Shakespeare, Luhrmann chooses to make the setting Nurse’s apartment. This allows the relationship between Juliet and Miriam Margolyes, Nurse, to be presented as far more intimate. Nurse ends up being more of a companion than a keeper. Danes gets right behind Margolyes to give her a massage showing their more personal take on the relationship of these two women. Margolyes is a very comical actor with exaggerated facial expressions and a very stereotypical, overly caring, Latina mama attitude. Margolyes clearly does not believe Nurse to be a prude in any way.

In contrast to Act II, which stays fairly true to Shakespeare’s timeline, Act III has been split up to create more drama around Mercutio’s death. Instead of killing Mercutio right away, DiCaprio spirals out and gets into a game of chicken which causes Tybalt to crash his car. Only after all of this and many shouted and repeated lines does DiCaprio finally shoot Tybalt. This part of the movie is cut with part of what is Act III Scene II in the play where Danes gives a bit of a monologue professing love for Romeo. This interjection of joy makes the shooting of Tybalt by Romeo more intense since Juliet’s love just killed her cousin. The music is biblical and epic or brooding and almost silent making Act III far less comical and considerably more dark than Act II.

In the end I cannot tell if I love or hate this movie. It reminds me of “Idiocracy” crossed with the part in “Back to the Future” where they actually go to the future meets “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. It is definitely weird. Not to mention the use of Shakespeare’s text in a modern setting is also odd. At the same time, Luhrmann manages to stay kind of true to Shakespeare in a really weird way. The use of such young actors and Nurse being so approachable, as well as Friar Laurence being so cool with his huge back tattoo of a cross, adds an appeal to my more contemporary tastes. It is one of those movies you would have to watch at least twice to know how you really feel.


Works Cited

Romeo + Juliet. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, and Miriam Margolyes, Twentieth Century Fox, 1996.

Luhrmann, Baz. “Romeo + Juliet (3/5) Movie CLIP – 1,000 Times Goodnight (1996) HD.” Youtube, uploaded by Movieclips, 9 October 2015,

Taylor McDonald Film Review

In Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 remake of the classic tragedy, Romeo + Juliet, he uses the mixture of modern setting and Shakespeare’s language to create a movie that makes Shakespeare accessible to a new generation. Luhrmann’s film is filled with themes of destiny and the inevitability of the lover’s tragic end. The first example of the destined tragedy of their story is in the opening of the movie.

Luhrmann opens the film with a news report about Romeo and Juliets tragic ending. This use of having the narrative start at the end of the story before it cuts back to events as they take place add to that sense of inevitability. The audience gets a sense that the ending is already set, that it is unchangeable, and we are just seeing the events that lead to that destined end. Another perfect example of this is the scene of Romeo and Juliets’s first kiss in the elevator. 

In this scene as Luhrmann cuts between Juliet in Romeos embrace and then Juliet’s mother it illustrates Juliet’s fear at being seen by her mother but she is unwilling to remove herself from his embrace. It shows that just as their love is destined so too is this first kiss destined and they are both powerless to stop it. As their first embrace is interrupted and they learn of each others families this symbolizes the inevitability of the tragic end to the story of their love. Another scene which adds to the audience’s sense that this tragic end is unavoidable is Romeo and Juliet’s deaths.

In this scene Romeo comes upon his love’s apparent dead body and ingests poison to join her slumber. As he is getting ready to take the poison Luhrmann cuts between him and shots of Juliet stirring. If Romeo would only look down he could see her moving and the tragedy could be avoided. He doesn’t see her movement however and he takes the poison just as Juliet wakes up and Juliet is forced to watch him die. As Juliet then takes up Romeo’s gun to join him the film is silent. The only sound is Juliet’s sobs and the click of the gun being readied to fire. In this scene the audience is holding their breath, willing the outcome to change, and the silence of the scene represents that. The gunshot is the audience releasing that held breath as the destined, tragic end comes to it’s fateful conclusion.

Kaitlin Osterlund: Film Review (Romeo + Juliet)

Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet film interestingly interprets Shakespeare’s original Romeo and Juliet play, by placing the traditional play in a modern 90’s setting. Many stylistic choices were made in this film that allowed the opposing script and setting to merge for a very unique interpretation on the story of Romeo and Juliet.

In the beginning of the film, the chorus gives an introduction, shown in the following YouTube clip.

Most other Shakespeare films do not include the chorus, but will visually describe the setting through shots and sequences that omit narrative descriptions. Luhrmann decided to keep the chorus to describe how his film would follow the traditional Shakespearian script in a modern 90’s setting. He did this by displaying the narrative in a news broadcast on an old television. The broadcaster spoke the lines from the original play, and she was composed in the manner that a news broadcaster would be on modern television of the 90’s. I found that this method of using the chorus set the scene very well for the film, allowing me to understand how the rest of the film would be portrayed, with an old Shakespearian dialogue in a modern 90’s world. Had the chorus not introduced the proceedings of the film with visual references to the 90’s, the juxtaposition of the modern times with the unmodified Shakespearian script would have created confusion between the visual setting and dialogue of the film. Luhrmann’s choice of incorporating the chorus allowed me as a viewer to seamlessly merge the Shakespearian dialogue and 90’s visual setting before the film proceeded into the story.

The next scene I would like to focus on is the scene when Mercutio is killed by Tibalt, shown in the following film clip from YouTube.

Mercutio calls his wound “a scratch” (Shakespeare, Evans, & Brooke, 1984, p. 3.1.60) when he is stabbed by Tibalt’s sword. Luhrmann, having retained much of Shakespeare’s original lines within his film, could not omit this well-known line. However, the characters all used guns rather than swords. If Mercutio had been struck by a bullet, it would have left a wound that could not be labeled as a scratch, and his death may have been shorter lived. Because of this, I believe that Luhrmann decided to have Mercutio fall into broken glass when pushed by Tibalt instead of being shot. This choice by Luhrmann allowed for Mercutio’s dialogue to remain unchanged from the traditional Shakespeare script. Mercutio could say that that the glass that impaled him left only a scratch. Mercutio’s death was also longer lived with this type of injury, rather than being shot by a bullet, which allowed him to carry out his long dialogue before his actual death. The Shakespearian script remained unchanged with this change in the means of Mercutio’s death in the film.

The last scene is after Mercutio’s death where Romeo kills Tibalt, seen in this last film clip from YouTube.

In this scene, Romeo acts out of rage after the death of Mercutio and fires multiple shots at Tibalt. I found it interesting that when Romeo shoots Tibalt, there is a sudden flash cut to Juliet. As soon as we see Juliet looking distressed, Romeo stops firing shots and has a look of realization that he was in a blind rage. This addition of Juliet to the scene allows viewers to understand that the thought of Juliet snapped Romeo out of his cloud of rage, when there was no direct dialogue explaining Romeo’s thoughts. Juliet was not directly in the scene, since later in the film we see Juliet learning about Tibalt’s death, so she was instead a part of Romeo’s thoughts. Without this cut, we would not understand why Romeo suddenly stopped firing his gun. Having Juliet flash across the screen gives viewers a brief view into Romeo’s mind, allowing viewers to understand his train of thought when he realizes the implications of his actions and the damage those actions would result for him and his star-crossed lover.

In all, I enjoyed this film, and appreciated Luhrmann’s ability to merge the script and setting in a very unique and interesting way to interpret as a viewer. It brings Romeo and Juliet into a modern light that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of viewers in the present while maintaining the integrity of Shakespeare’s script.

Work Cited:

Shakespeare, William, G. Blakemore Evans, and Arthur Brooke. Romeo and Juliet. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. Print.

Tekla McIlhargey: Film Review


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.


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.

Caitlyn Molstad: Film Review

Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is a great example of the ways in which film techniques can accentuate and enhance Shakespeare’s plays. Luhrmann’s use of film language is successful in creating a more intensified version of Romeo and Juliet. There is a looming sense of a higher power and strong themes of fate and destiny at work in Shakespeare’s original text. Luhrmann translates these textual themes into strong visual motifs that heighten the intensity of the story.

In the opening sequence of Romeo + Juliet, a television report and newspaper headlines take the role of the chorus and describe the tragic nature of the story that is about to unfold in a modern context. This introduction frames the inevitable demise of the young lovers and introduces the violence of the feud between their two houses. The film is successful in vividly showing the viewer what Shakespeare’s chorus could only tell in words. Instead of using their imaginations, viewers are thrusted into an aggressive visual montage of flash cuts and zooms, dramatic opera music, and turbulent camera work depicting the Montague and Capulet’s violent crimes against each other. 

One of the first images in the opening montage is the statue of the Christ figure that stands in the centre of the city. Throughout the film, this symbol works to represent the themes of fate and determinism in the story. The opening sequence cuts to a close-up of the statue’s face, then slam zooms out to a long shot of the city of Verona, where the statue is flanked by two skyscrapers that say “Capulet” and “Montague” respectively. This shot establishes the two houses as well as a sense of higher power because of the presence of the religious statue between them. The juxtaposition of violence and symbols of fate with the urgent nature of news headlines, coupled with a dramatic film score, gives the prelude to Shakespeare’s play far more intensity than can be achieved on-stage. The opening montage also makes use of flash-forward cuts that show powerful moments from the story, which situates the viewer within the inevitable drama and tragedy that is about to unfold. Luhrmann also uses flash-forward cuts as well as flash-backs throughout the film to add visual potency and to further drive home the theme of fatefulness.

Another scene which demonstrates the effectiveness of film language in Shakespeare is the scene on Verona Beach where Mercutio meets his death at the hand of Tybalt. The scene starts off with Mercutio teasing Tybalt but it quickly becomes heated between the two and the camera work is chaotic, almost becoming a character amidst the scuffle of the confrontation. The group of men circle around the camera in heated dialogue and the film score becomes more intense.The confrontation moves to what appears to be a run-down theatre stage on the beach, paying homage to Shakespeare and adding metatheatrical element to the scene.

The scene comes to a climax and Mercutio is fatally wounded, at which point the wind on the beach picks up and there is a thunderstorm, accentuating the emotion and seriousness of Mercutio’s death. The storm coming in during this scene also foreshadows to the tragedy to follow, as Romeo is about to murder Tybalt, his new wife’s cousin, in a rage of revenge. This visual device works to represent once again the active role of fate in the character’s lives.

The following scene, where Romeo and Tybalt fight each other in a passionate fit of rage, uses the mise-en-scene of the stormy, rainy weather to emphasize the tragic and emotional nature of the scene. The fast-paced action of the car chase is exciting and accentuates the characters rage as Luhrmann cuts back and forth between close-ups of the two rivals. The music is dizzying as Romeo shoots Tybalt dead into the fountain. The thunder rumbles again and the rain starts to pour as he realizes the severity of what he’s done and exclaims “I am fortune’s fool!” (3.1.98). The symbolism in the overhead shot of the Christ statue towering over Romeo and Tybalt as well as the score and mise-en-scene of the bad weather work to emphasize Romeo’s emotion and the theme of fate in the story. The film language and symbolism used by Baz Luhrmann throughout the film is consistent and successful in creating a more intense, emotional and potent rendition of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy.


Natasha Krahn: Film Review

Hamlet is one of my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays therefore, I chose to review Zeffirelli’s version of Hamlet. What I did find, is that the music was underwhelming, but the amount of music used felt more as if they were using rules of the theatre, where music is to be used in small amounts. I found that, as a theatre junkie, that I didn’t mind the lack of music, because I got to enjoy the acting, the dialogue and the story without fully being lead by the music.


Within act one, scene two, Claudius’s speech mostly talked about mourning the death of the King Hamlet but briefly talked about that the kingdom is united with marriage and that a war is approaching. The music in this sequence is when the horns played, which not only signified that his speech is over, but that there was also a scene change, which also happens in theatre.


Gertrude and Claudius walked into a dark room looking for Hamlet. Gertrude opened the window to let the sun in but Hamlet cringed as it hit his face. As Claudius talked, he started off in the light but walked into the shadows as he talked. The moments that the camera is on Gertrude, she glowed from behind and almost seemed angelic, I felt like the director made her even more innocent and naïve by using the lighting; the way Gertrude was portrayed also gave the feeling of her being naïve.


As Hamlet gave his first soliloquy, he moved his face between light and shadow when he stared out the widow at his mother and uncle. The entire script used, omitted using Greek mythology, including in this soliloquy. It ended on Hamlet saying, “frailty, thy name is woman” and he slammed the window shut. Which cut off Hamlet comparing Niobe his mother; Niobe could not cease crying after the loss of her children and transformed into stone, but water still flowed. I felt that the Greek mythologies are cut off because if the audience did not understand the myth, that the scene would lose the effect, where omitting it still gave the same effect of Hamlet not having a fondness for his mother marrying his uncle.


In act three, scene one, I wanted to pay particular attention to Hamlet and Ophelia’s interactions as well as Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. Hamlet walked in saying the last line in his soliloquy, “in thy orisons be all my sins remembered.” Hamlet and Ophelia argued on whether or not Hamlet once loved her. Ophelia stood by her claim that he did once love her, she was very calm, and almost seemingly in control of the situation because Hamlet eventually admitted to loving her once. He stated that he loved her once while bellowing at her and breathing heavily between lines. Hamlet proceeded to circle her, as if he were an animal stalking his prey. Ophelia stood in place while clutching her book and looking down as if to ignore his outbursts. Hamlet advanced by grabbing her jaw and yelling at her. He progressed to shoving her into the wall and running out of the room, like a child throwing a fit, still reciting his lines. He went from having not much control, to having all the control to running away from it.


Hamlet’s famous soliloquy begins after the camera scans the coffins in the room. The soliloquy took place in a room full of coffins which seemed fitting because Hamlet talked about suicide and pondered life’s trivial things. Hamlet went close to one of the coffins and leaned against it and looked longingly at it, as if he were desirous. Hamlet then walked over to another coffin and kneeled to the floor and leaned against it as if for support. He got up and stepped into the light but then stepped back into the darkness. Music does not guide this scene, it is fully guided by the acting and the dialogue. The feeling given in this scene is miserable and fuming due to Hamlet’s fluctuations in his voice and the dialogue used.

Overall, the movie is well done from a theatrical point of view, because the movie stays true to Shakespeare and theatre but certain things like lighting and acting is sometimes quite subtle but very intentional. It’s enjoyable to watch due to the nods to Shakespeare that Zeffirelli gave through out the movie.