Friday, 18 July 2014

Top 5 Shakespeare Adaptations

William Shakespeare is 450 years old this year! I have always been a huge admirer of his works and it seems that there are others who take their admiration a step further by translating it to the big screen. Whilst there are countless versions available I have narrowed down my favourite five in this list.
Let me lay down a few ground rules first. I am only counting films that are self-declared adaptations rather than sharing themes and taking inspiration from Shakespeare, so no West Side Story’s and Lion King’s will be appearing here. Also there are to be no films about Shakespeare as a person, so do not expect to see Shakespeare in Love or Infamous. Without any further delay we go once more unto the breach.
5: Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Everyone knows the story to this, two lovers from opposing families are caught in a battle of loyalties. Baz Luhrmann managed to do several extraordinary things with this film, he modernised the classic tale as well as introducing a good classical element. This is mainly due to the fact that unlike the 2013 adaptation he kept the original dialogue, as well as introducing fantastic energy and pace to the way the lines were spoken. It makes the play as accessible as it can as well as using some rich cinematography and helping the characters resonate even more with audiences.
4: Henry V (1989)
I often find that this play resonates with young people more than any other from Shakespeare. The character ark of a drunken slacker who becomes a victorious monarch is clearly relatable from the standards that are set by society. This version seems to take a more nuanced and revisionist approach to the character and story. More than any other adaptation it demonstrates the real consequences of actions in the play beyond those that Shakespeare wrote.
3: Macbeth (1971)
A tragedy rooted in the influence of supernatural, it makes you wonder why no one has tried to adapt it recently. Until then this is by far the best in my opinion, it manages to make the scenes genuinely terrifying when they need to be and certainly depicts Macbeth as a sympathetic character, something that a surprising amount of versions have failed to do. The character development is also beautifully presented which further emphasises the tragedy of the story, which is what Macbeth is.
2: Titus (1999)
Surprised, well you shouldn’t be. Titus took one of Shakespeare’s less popular plays and breathed great new life an energy into it in terms of character development and visual nature. One of the best things about Titus is the fact that the visuals perfectly match the rather abstract script that it was based upon. It only emphasises the emotion of the characters and manages to be surreal and tense simultaneously whilst paying homage to the genius himself, Shakespeare.
1: Hamlet (1996)

Arguably the finest play from Shakespeare and for me the best adaptation as well. The performances are immensely enjoyable even if you’re not a follower of the play the film is based upon. Amazingly it utilizes just one set and the time period matches the style of Hamlet itself really well, it’s difficult not to admire the intelligence behind the project. Like the best adaptations they make the characters more understandable whilst adding an element of irrational behaviour that makes us realise their transformation.       

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