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Shakespeare Retold (DVD)
Featuring contemporary versions of four of Shakespeare's most popular plays. Six hours of content on 2 discs!]]>
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
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Unlike the other movies in the series, The Taming of the Shrew isn't just a setting of the play in a modern setting; it's a transformation of the story. It sticks closely to the plot of Shakespeare's play but tells quite a different story. I've never been able to buy that the original Taming of the Shrew is a love story in any way; this one actually is. And all the relationships are warmer and more complex--not only between Katherine and Petruchio, but also between Katherine and her family.
This movie also turned me into a huge Rufus Sewell fan. His Petruchio is strange and loud and inappropriate but essentially loving and good. The interactions between him and Shirley Henderson's very shrewish Katherine are delightful.
Much Ado About Nothing is enjoyable, but it didn't quite work. The main Benedick/Beatrice storyline was cute, but Benedick was too slimy and Beatrice was so much smarter than him that it was almost painful.
Macbeth is very good, but very dark.
I never managed to watch A Midsummer Night's Dream all the way through. I skimmed through--it seemed like it had too much Puck, and Puck was annoying. It's on the same disc as Taming of the Shrew, and given the choice, I'd rather just watch Shrew again.
The one down fall is it's missing some scenes from the original. Most stand out is James McAvoy singing in the kitchen :(
Sad that it wasn't in the Amazon digital version.
That aside, it's a beautifully written series, that brings Shakespeare to today. If you are a Bard fan or not, you'll still enjoy the stories.
All four make good stand alone movies and no knowledge of the original material is necessary to understand them.
The plays are: Midsummer night's dream, Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, and Much ado about nothing. I felt that Much ado, and Macbeth came closes to the source material while Midsummer and Taming were not hurt for the changes.
If you like Shakespeare then these movies are a must.
- The Taming of the Shrew is excellent - it's funny, creative, and very true to the original plot. It accurately illustrates how the play would take place in this generation, and definitely heighten's students' interest in the play (which is usually very difficult!)
- A Midsummer Night's Dream is a little boring in comparison to The Shrew, but it helps students understand the plot especially since there are so many characters to keep track of.
I haven't seen the other two episodes but watching two of them was enough for me to put this DVD in my prized collection of movies for teaching and for personal entertainment ;)
* If you're a Shakespeare fan, it's great to see a different adaptation & perspective of the play
* If you're an English Arts university student, it's a great resource to offer a different view for your papers
* If you're a teacher, it will definitely make lessons more interesting and relevant to your students!
Definitely worth it's price.
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