I, like most American students, used to hate Shakespeare. I would gripe and complain, “Ughh, I don’t get it,” “What’s going on,” or “Tybalt was the best character in Romeo and Juliet.” I was but a naive and incompetent 15 year old. Now, in my ripe, old age of 20, I have seen the light.
In April, Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary was celebrated. Needless to say, England went in with full force celebrating the Bard's iconic plays. Thus, my new found love for Wills was rekindled. Since watching the RSC’s Shakespeare Live, I have been all about the Shakespeare films. Here is what I’ve been watching.
Directed by Justin Kurzel
Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. The cinematography is out of this world. The spectacular imagery compliments the violent and unforgiving story, bring a sense of beauty to these war-torn characters. Adam Arkapaw has created cinematography worthy of Shakespeare's tragedy.
Besides the glorious visuals, this film contains fantastic performances from it's two leads, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. What was so spectacular about these performances was the humanity brought to Macbeth and his wife (which is not easy to do). They are less of villains, and more of a couple troubled and lost. (Another kudos to Kurzel for giving the Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth souls and a purpose for their heinous actions.)
What I found most string about Fassbender's performance was the attitude he took towards Macbeth's character. He saw Macbeth as a tortured soul, returned from war with PTSD. Post-trumatic stress is not something that would have even existed in the medical field when this play was written, but it is very clear that Shakespeare wrote Macbeth with clear symptoms. Fassbender really embraced the mental illness plaguing Macbeth, and he played it to perfection.
The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses
Directed by Dominic Cooke
I have been patiently waiting, twiddling my thumbs, without complaint since 2012 for this series to be released. And it definitely did not disappoint.
I was genuinely surprised how much I loved this series! Obviously, Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, but Henry VI does not get the same adoration and love as Richard. I actually found Henry VI captivating and entertaining (but I guess that’s just the Real Housewives drama lover in me saying that— I’m always up for scandal and treatury). But, of course, the real stand out was Richard III.
Dominic Cooke’s direction was fantastic. Typically, I am not interested in medieval dramas; I’m normally bored within the first 10 minutes. Yet, Cooke’s direction and vision made the plays more modern than medieval. He created three films that kept me captivated and thrilled for over 6 hours.
There were two standout performances from this series (and we all know one of them). Sophie Okonedo was outstanding as Margaret. Her progression throughout the plays showed the wide range and skill she possesses as an actress. She created a woman that was just as, if not more, powerful as the men around her. And, of course, the other standout was the ever glorious Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III. This performance was a master class in acting. He is completely natural in Richard’s unnatural skin. It’s not easy to deliver Shakespeare’s complex speeches, but Cumberbatch delivers them with absolute brilliance. His psychopath was beyond fantastic.
The Hollow Crown
Directed by Rupert Goold, Richard Eyre, and Thea Sharrock
Ben Whishaw’s Richard II was one of the best performances I have ever seen, and, in the wake of The War of Roses being released, I thought it was time to do a rewatch of the inaugural series.
Richard II is my favorite play from this saga, primarily because of Whishaw. Whishaw’s Richard is feeble, meek, and meager. Whishaw plays the child-like king, whose ignorance and incompetence leads to the loss of his crown and dignity, with a brilliance that is capable of only the greatest of actors. And watching his performance again, only reiterated the excellence of Whishaw’s acting.
Tom Hiddleston takes a fantastic turn as Hal in Henry IV. Hiddleston, with his school boy charm and effortless smile, is a perfect fit for the immature prince. He's fun, youthful, and, of course, handsome as can be. Yet, Hiddleston is just as captivating and effortless as the regal and dignified King Henry V. Much like Okonedo and Cumberbatch, it's fantastic to see Hiddleston's progression of young Henry's character throughout the series.
Photo Courtesy: comiconverse.com, cinemag.gr, thegurdian.com, telegraph.co.uk, amazon.com, avclub.com
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