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Shakespeare Retold


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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Shakespeare Retold (DVD)

Amazon.com

Shakespeare Retold, BBC's four-episode Shakespeare project, is more fulfilling when compared to past filmic adaptations of the maestro's plays, since its experimentation ventures well beyond previous versions of the same stories. In the past, adaptations relied on strict adherence to the original scripts (see Orson Welles' and Polanski's Macbeths, or Franco Zefferelli's lavishly accurate renditions of The Taming of The Shrew and Romeo and Juliet). Though Welles as Macbeth and Liz Taylor as Kate are stiff competition, however, these parts are ever open for reinterpretation. But not until Leonardo di Caprio as Romeo dropped a hit of ecstasy on screen did adaptations stray so far into the narrative experimentation that this series relies on. The stories retold, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night's Dream so loosely keep their Shakespearian frameworks that unassuming viewers may miss the link. For example, in Macbeth, Joe (James McAvoy), the ambitious sous chef, kills his restaurant's owner to inherit the kitchen's three Michelin stars. Does this mean now that every movie about murderous jealousy is Shakespeare Retold? In The Taming of the Shrew, conservative politician Kate, valiantly portrayed by Shirley Henderson, is coerced into marriage by her political advisor to win Prime Minister votes. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Puck (Dean Lennox Kelly) is a hippified nerd who drops onto the camera lens something like liquid acid before spinning a mundane tale of broken engagement. Shakespeare modernized without his language, or original settings, hardly feels like Shakespeare at all. Shakespeare Retold, will undoubtedly please some fans and enrage others. Though Shakespeare professors will relish this new attempt to contemporize Shakespeare, the four films comprising Shakespeare Retold not only diminish the potency of these classic tales, but also beg the viewer to question what Shakespeare tales really are. —Trinie Dalton

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Bill Paterson, Imelda Staunton, Keeley Hawes, James McAvoy, Shirley Henderson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Stereo)
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: Unknown
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: July 24, 2007
  • Run Time: 360 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000OY9VFW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,512 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Titania on April 14, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
As an English professor always looking for new perspectives on Shakespeare for my students, I watched these enthusiastically. Aside from Midsummer, which focuses too much on Theseus and Hippolyta's marriage and is very dark,these are terrific. The best stars in the English firmament make up these casts. The best is Shrew -- Shirley Henderson, Harry Potter's Moaning Myrtle all grown up (metaphorically, she's a tiny person) is a miniature nuclear bomb, and Rufus Sewell is absolutely edible. The elevator scene is hysterical. Twiggy is also great as her former model mother ushering around her current model sister, Bianca. I've been waiting for these on this side of the pond for a year now!
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Matt Williams on August 24, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
As a lifelong lover of the Bard, and yearly attendee and patron of a Shakespeare festival, I was very wary of purchasing these DVDs and seeing them, but I was especially pleased with these storylines and the production quality.

The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing are standouts; each warrant the purchase price of the set. But MacBeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream are no slackers, either! The acting is overall superb, the music and lighting and sets very well done, and for once, the chemistry between the leads was flawlessly believable. The modernization of Shakespeare's language was so well orchestrated, and the parallels between Shakespeare's day and the modern world so well done, I loved these productions.

Perhaps not for the overly devout Shakespeare fan who sighs at every missed line or nuance, but I have to give these my highest rating as they are excellent modern versions of Shakespeare's plays.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Georgia Smiley on January 24, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I viewed these originally on BBCAmerica and then purchased them...so glad I did.
This version of "Macbeth" was the standout for me. It kept most of the themes while translating the story to a modern kitchen. While a tragedy, this was also the funniest of the four: some marvelous lines and even better performances from Hawes and McAvoy. McAvoy's boyish looks and small stature served to reenforce his subservience to his wife, a sleek, insinuating, and ultimately tragic Ella Macbeth. Hawes performance, especially the dissolving into madness was touching and controlled: no scenery was chewed in the making of this story.
The same cannot be said for "Shrew". Rufus Sewell was brilliant and Shirley Henderson over the top (as usual, but it works here.) Henderson's voice is an acquired taste so it you don't like it, don't bother with this but you'll be robbed of Sewell's delicious turn. The ending was a disappointment and knocked this from an A to a B-.
The Damian Lewis/Sarah Parrish "Much Ado" was mildly funny and passed the time but I've no desire to see it again.
I think the "Midsummer Night's Dream" was a bit too ambitious and ended up bit of a mess. Some wonderful performers who needed a stronger director?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lauren A. Hill on March 1, 2008
Format: DVD
I do not claim to be am expert at Shakespeare, but I have worked on many of the bard's productions including all the one's included within this set. That being said, I think overall the aim was achieved very successfully.
My personal favorite was the version of 'Macbeth'. It seemed truest to the actual story and I think the acting was absoultely superb. Shakespeare's tragedies are sometimes very difficult to produce, moreso than his comedies, and I think this succeeds any and all expectations I had when coming in.
The other three productions are nothing to scoff at either. They too are acted quite well, although I thought some of Shakespeare's cleverest themes were disgarded or dumbed down for the 90-minute window. It was a little disappointing actually, but I would still recommend this set to those interested in learning Shakespeare.
But, my biggest recommendation is to read the plays as well as going to live theatre to hear the true words. Experience the reason we still produce his works today.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. Vanderweide on January 9, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
While other reviews are rightfully praising the BBC's updating of "Taming Of The Shrew" and "Much Ado About Nothing," it's worth noting that the version of "Macbeth" in this series is absolutely outstanding.

The witches are bin men (garbage collectors), the principals are chefs entwined in the jealousies generated by a restaurant review, and the overall execution is a perfect blend of darkness, madness and hubris. It's probably the most true-to-source adaptation in the series and yet another reason to get this series.

And, as a footnote, I agree with the previous sentiment that the tone and focus of "Midsummer Night's Dream" is off, but it's still well-done.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Alan A. Elsner VINE VOICE on June 28, 2010
Format: DVD
What would Shakespeare plays be like if you took away the poetry, the great speeches, all that wonderful language, and left only the plots?

We find out in this collection of four Shakespeare plays adapted, shortened and brought up to date. The results are uneven but mainly pretty entertaining without ever being Shakespearian.

The best of the four is the first -- "The Taming of the Shrew" -- due to the wonderful Shirley Henderson who always enlivens whatever project she graces with her talent. Here, she is a formidable mini-Margaret Thatcher aiming to become leader of the British conservative party, terrorizing her male aides and her silly supermodel sister. The adaption finds some neat ways to temper the sexism of the original to make it more palatable to modern sensibilities. It's an amusing romp.

The weakest of the four in "Midsummer's Night's Dream" set in a theme park. It has some bright moments, notably the depiction of Bottom as a clueless, wannabe stand-up comedian who is desperately unfunny. But the magic doesn't work outside the Forest of Arden.

"Much Ado Abotu Nothing," set in a local TV newsroom, was pleasant enough. Don John, the villain in the original, here becomes rather pathetic and creepy instead of just evil.

"Macbeth" with James McAvoy, is set in a three-Michelin star restaurant and is downright weird. Again, the plot doesn't work in the modern setting and without the language, the play loses its grandeur and degenerates into a bloodfest.

It strikes me that our enjoyment of these pieces stems from our familiarity of the originals. I enjoyed seeing how the adapters reshaped the original material. For instance the members of the watch from "Much Ado" become hapless security men.
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