Saturday, February 27, 2016

Shakespeare on the Screen

In a eulogy appearing in the First Folio, Ben Jonson described fellow playwright and poet William Shakespeare as “not of an age, but for all time.”  Four hundred years after Shakespeare’s death, his stories still have the power to captivate modern audiences with their timeless themes and fully realized characters.  Here are five creatively adapted films, available for checkout at Lake Forest Library.

Blood Simple, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Like the Bard, the Coen Brothers are famous for tackling comedy and tragedy with equal aplomb.  Those of us excited for their latest Hail, Caesar! might want to revisit their debut feature, a loose retelling of Macbeth.  The setting has been changed to modern Texas, but viewers will recognize the overly ambitious man, his scheming wife, and of course, a damned spot that just won’t come out. 

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, directed by Baz Luhrmann

Director Baz Luhrmann updated Romeo and Juliet with a contemporary setting, but kept all the dialog.  The colorful and modern cinematography and performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Caire Danes as the star-crossed lovers may ease teens and other Shakespeare novices into the dense Elizabethan wordplay.   

10 Things I Hate About You, directed by Gil Junger

If Romeo + Juliet is too much of a downer, this adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew is the antidote.  It has a fun soundtrack and made stars out of Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  For a high school comedy, it’s pretty good.        

Throne of Blood, directed by Akira Kurosawa

Master Japanese director Akira Kurosawa set his retelling of Macbeth in turbulent feudal Japan.  It’s a unique blend of western tragedy and traditional Noh Theater of medieval Japan.  Speeches and asides are exchanged for precise movements and exaggerated facial expressions meant to evoke the masks actors would have worn on stage. 

West Side Story, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins

It’s Romeo and Juliet, but instead of Montagues and Capulets, it’s Sharks and Jets, and instead of Fair Verona, it’s the Upper West Side of New York City.  This iconic musical won ten Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and has been honored by the American Film Institute with spots on their lists for best movies, romances, songs, and musicals.    

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