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”: https://www.playshakespeare.com/twelfth-night/scenes/1054-act-ii-scene-3

Nunn’s Twelfth Night 1996: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelfth_Night_(1996_film)

Shakespeare and Film, A Norton Guide, Samuel Crowl



Hilary James: Film Review

Trevor Nunn’s Twelfth Night or What You Will (1996) is a witty, heartfelt rendition of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy. Nunn brought the story to life through excellent casting, giving the audience background information, and physical closeness to the characters.

The true highlight of the film for me was watching Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia and Imogen Stubbs as Viola/Cesario bring their characters to life in a somehow comical, yet relatable way. Cesario’s hilariously frustrated attempts to avert Olivia’s ardent affection was a joy to watch. Bonham Carter gives an authentic performance of the almost irrational passion for Cesario, and even her sudden reversal of love towards Sebastian is believable. Nunn makes use of a short voiceover to give us insight into Olivia’s mind as she first falls for Cesario, which quickly turns into her speaking aloud to herself- but sets up the idea that we are listening in on her thoughts.

Nunn’s rendition of Twelfth Night for the screen had many advantages- one of which being that the audience can truly view and understand the backstory behind the text. Most pointedly, the very first scene not only sets up Viola and Sebastian’s loving relationship, but explicitly shows us the events (a shipwreck) that would have happened before the first act. It also sets up Feste as a sort of observer and narrator of the action as he watches afar from a cliff. Secondly, the audience truly gets a sense of the effort behind Viola’s transformation into a man by having scenes of her cutting her hair, binding her breasts, stuffing her pants, and pasting on a moustache both at the beginning and later on in the film as a reminder of her daily struggle. Even a scene showing Viola hastily remove a man’s hands from her hidden breasts reveals her constant danger of being revealed. Thirdly, the arrival of Sebastion is foreshadowed in a flash forward of him alive in the sea, preparing the audience for a change of events.

Another decision that Nunn made, and that the medium of film allowed, was the arrangement of scenes and cuts back and forth between the action in order to give a sense of real time. The different shots allowed the audience to see characters reactions in real time (such as when Sir Toby and Sir Andrew watch their prank on Malvolio unfold in the hedges), and builds tension as we see events unfold in different places at the same time.

I found that Nunn makes special use of the physical closeness that the camera offers to characters. Specifically, he builds palpable tension between Viola (as Cesario), and Orsino in instances such as the bathtub scene. The tender nature of Viola washing her master’s back reveals her desire for him, and her inner struggle to remain in disguise. They are often in close physical proximity, speaking mere inches from each others face. Because of this, I could feel the danger of Viola being revealed, her inner desire and struggle, and his confusion at their obvious (potentially romantic) connection.

Finally, Nunn builds a beautiful reunion between brother and sister through use of camera, music, acting, and backstory. As previously mentioned, Viola and Sebastion’s relationship is established in the first scene- making their reunion emotional and believable. His use of camera and editing keeps brother and sister in separate frames in distant shots as they first see each other- emphasizing the distance and separation the two have faced. Gradually, the shots move closer so we can see the emotional reactions of the actors, but there is still a sense of distance as they are kept in separate frames. This, to me, represented their hesitance to accept the reunion as real, in case they be disappointed. Finally, as the music builds, and the camera moves right up to their teary eyed faces, they embrace in a heartfelt conclusion to the homecoming.

I did not find Nunn’s direction to be revolutionary, the use of the camera was fairly standard (no extreme close up’s, minimal use of the camera as a character, etc.), and he kept fairly true to Shakespeare’s original text (there were large dialogue cuts of course, but the important plot points remained). He didn’t make special use of location shooting; there were minimal sets, some outdoor shots, nothing particularly grand or elaborate. However, this did not take away anything from the film for me, as I found the film’s greatest assets to be its homeliness and it’s wit.

Zhen Deng: Film Review


Baz Luhrmann makes excellent interpretive choices to emphasize the importance of fate in his 1996 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Through some may cite its deviations from the original Shakespearean text as demerits, overall, Luhrmann’s use of scenery and film technique to emphasize the importance of fate in his film strongly overcomes any of the film’s shortcomings.

Baz Luhrmann does a great job of emphasizing the role of fate through the introduction of Mercutio in act 1 scene 4. This is achieved by juxtaposing Mercutio’s initial joking attitude with the final seriousness of his Queen Mab speech. Through the use of film technique, a monologue that could be cast aside as random and humorous becomes weighty and serious. Appearing in a short white dress, an overtly fake white wig, and lipstick, Mercutio is initially presented as outgoing character with a wild streak. His initial exchanges with Romeo are light and joking. During these exchanges, the camera alternates between shots of Romeo and Mercutio’s faces. This, along with the director’s choice of high-spirited music, create the initial friendly, humorous atmosphere of the scene.

Suddenly, the high-spirited music stops as Mercutio begins to give his famous “Queen Mab” speech. The speech begins light and humorous as Mercutio describes Queen Mab, a character of folklore and children’s tales. As he begins his speech, the music starts out quiet and mysterious, befitting the subtlety and complexity of the powerful fairy queen. Suddenly, there is a shift in music as Mercutio describes how Mab “driveth o’ a soldier’s neck, and he dremercutio-agitatedams of cutting foreign throats.” The tone has become dark, ominous, and dangerous. Mercutio becomes more and more upset as he describes Queen Mab until he ends his speech with a feral scream. Considering how agitated the previously easy-going Mercutio is directed to become, viewers understand that his speech is not quite as simple as it may appear to be. Upon further inspection, Queen Mab seems comparable to fate – Something that controls “dreamers” and plants horrendous ideas into their minds. Perhaps Mercutio sees that all “dreamers,” including he and Romeo, are controlled by powers beyond their control, and that their “dreams” will end in tragedy, just as the dreams of the soldier and virgin did. Overall, Luhrmann’s interpretation of Mercutio’s Queen Mab monologue lean heavily away from silly, ecstasy-crazed words towards foreshadowing and introducing the importance of uncontrollable fate.


Similarly, act 1 scene 5, in where Romeo and Juliet discover one another’s identities, also emphasizes the theme of uncontrollable fate. While the original Shakespeare text has Romeo and Juliet discover each other’s identities physically apart, Luhrmann chooses to have the two discover this in sight of one another. Though this deviation from the original text may be noted as a demerit by some critics, by changing his interpretation, Luhrmann is able to use specific shots involving Romeo and Juliet to better emphasize the helplessness Romeo and Juliet feel as a result of uncontrollable fate. The slow zoom out on the high angle shot of Romeo at the bottom of the staircase represents the distance he feels from Juliet. Luhrmann’s choice to position Juliet at the top of the staircase shows Romeo’s new perception of Juliet; she is a target high above his reach – Another lost love. Long, lingering reaction shots of Romeo and Juliet doing nothing but staring at each other in shock disbelief seem to further emphasize the role of fate in this play – Characters cannot control their own fate, they can only watch while realization of their terrible fate slowly dawns on them.


The theme of uncontrollable fate reoccurs in act 5 scene 1. The outskirts of Verona Beach, where Romeo sits in exile, waiting for news of Juliet, are dusty, dry, and yellowing. The choice of the setting’s scenery creates a strong sense of isolation. The scenery, paired with shots of Romeo’s inaction at the time of Balzehar’s arrival, seems to emphasize the fact that Romeo’s fate is now completely out of his hands. By manipulating the scenery of act 5 scene 1, Luhrmann again masterfully highlights the importance of fate in his interpretation Romeo and Juliet.

In his 1996 interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, Baz Luhrmann masterfully utilizes setting and film technique and to emphasize the importance of fate. Though his film adaptation is by no means perfect, Luhrmann’s use of setting and film technique to emphasis the importance of fate in his film is extremely well done.

Cailin Murphy: Film Review

For my blog post in English 311, I have chosen to do a film review on Romeo and Juliet directed by Baz Luhrmann. This post will focus on key scenes throughout the play and conduct an analysis on points within the scene compared to how it appears in Shakespeare’s original text to see what were effective choices or otherwise on behalf of the actors, director, or editing team.

The first scene that will be looked at is found in act 2, scene 2. The scene features the “Montague boys” yelling at Romeo come back to the car after he jumps out as they were leaving the Capulet party. The film scene seems to be a continuation of scene 1, acting as an introduction to scene 2. This is noted by the line “He jests at scars that never felt a wound” (act 2, scene 2, line 47) as Romeo is climbing the wall to return to Juliet. In the original text these are two distinct scenes. In the film, the action of Romeo trying not to get caught inside the Capulet walls is an effective portrayal of the overlying theme of forbidden love. Cutting out most of Romeo’s speech is effective of showing his attempt at being quiet. The back and forth dialogue of Romeo and Juliet’s lines, rather than saying their lines at separate times like in the text, is effective as it is like they are engaging in a conversation without the other knowing. During this scene I was intrigued by the directors pattern of water. This scene predominantly takes place in the Capulet’s swimming pool, which at first viewing of the film I found ineffective. However, upon further research I found that Luhrmann used water as a motif to signify clarity (Reel Club, 2011). See link here:

H2Oooohhhhhh: The Motif of Water in WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO + JULIET

The second scene to de discussed is Act 4, scene 1. The instance that Juliet brings a gun when she sees Friar Lawrence, rather than a knife was effective in showing that she was a powerful and potentially violent character in her angry state. This was also effective in giving context to the time frame difference between the film and Shakespeare text. Much of Juliet’s speech was omitted from the film in this scene. Friar Lawrence’s speech overlays shots of Juliet’s actions regarding her consumption of the potion, as well as the consequences if all goes according to plan, which we all know is not the case. This is effective in making time or a series of events seem to pass by quicker than they took place, making it easier on the audience to follow along with the story. It is ineffective as we lose the texts depiction of Juliet’s haste and urgency of wanting to take the potion. This idea can be shown through the quote “Give me, give me! O, tell me not of fear” (act 4, scene 1, line 123).

The final scene to be analyzed is act 5, scene 3. In the first stages of this scene Paris is not killed as he is in the text, however there is a police chase, which I did not find effective in my opinion, seemed excessive, but went along with the feel of the film overall. In the film the audience misses out on much of Romeo’s speech when walking to where Juliet lays in the church. It is said later when Romeo is next to Juliet’s seemingly lifeless body. This is effective in that it makes the walk down the aisle of the church more dramatic. Also, this is an effective use of setting and shots, reflecting back to the flash-forward of Romeo being in the church before the Capulet party. Another choice by the director in correlation to the flash-forward was when Romeo says, “Thy drugs are quick” (act 5, scene 3, line 210). This line was originally said in this scene after Romeo drinks the poison rather than taking the drugs before the Capulet party. I just found this to be choice to take note of.

Through this analytical review, the audience can see the many attributes to the film from the original text that are effective and some not so much and perhaps unnecessary in some opinions. With this being said, over all a good representation by Luhrmann in regards to the original text.

Works Cited

“H2Oooohhhhhh: The Motif of Water in WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO JULIET.” Reel Club. N.p., 10 July 2011. Web. 09 Oct. 2016.