Written by Augustine
I have established to all of my friends and acquaintances so far that the Bard is my literary soul mate (this is my term and I embrace it every time). I am a huge fan of his works and my eternal fictional crush will always be Hamlet (and Macbeth if he looked like Michael Fassbender). Anyway, I am giving you the nine most succesful and worth-your-time Shakespearean adaptations you should watch in your lifetime if you want to drink beers and swag with Will in the afterlife (you do know that he was the one who invented the term “swagger” right?)
9. 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU (1999)
Okay this is NOT a classic Shakespearean adaptation but I needed to add this to my list because:
a. Heath Ledger’s hotness needs to be addressed in one of my lists
b. Julia Stiles reads amazing poetry throughout the movie AND she’s a kick-ass feminist as well (Sylvia Plath? Betty Friedan? Damn, she’s mine!)
c. It’s one of these cheesy rom-coms for finding love as a teenager and since such movies are a guilty pleasure of mine (huge fan of Clueless and Lindsay Lohan’s movies here!) I wanted to offer a place for it in this list.
The plot is loosely based on Shakespeare’s early comedy The Taming of the Shrew and it has a lot of references to gender/power issues and to feminism as well but guess what: Kat (J.Stiles) stands for Katherine Minola, a too verbose and “wild” young woman who is “tamed” by Petruchio (the prototype for H.Ledger’s character, Patrick Verona) in the most hideous ways to appear more “feminine”, attractive and pleasant looking. Not the basic feminist plot, but you still have fun watching Kat getting back at everyone with her sarcasm and brains.
8. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1993)
I have to confess that Kenneth Branagh is so hot and handsome that every time I watch a movie with him playing a Shakespearean character I die a little bit inside. Not to mention that in this fantastic comedy which again focuses on gender relations and issues (William was indeed avant-garde!) Emma Thompson, Robert Sean Leonard, Kate Beckinsale, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton (oh yes, he’s there as well) and Keanu Reeves perform the basic characters of the play. It’s a hilarious rom-com with hilarious scenes and too-sexual jokes at times and let me tell you a secret: in Renaissance England nothing was a pun for the “fair thing that lies between a maiden’s legs” (Hamlet vibes here!) and in other words, the female genitalia (the no-thing that is, since men owned the “thing” and not women). I never miss a chance to praise my literary soul mate and his brains, see?
7. MACBETH (2010)
A BBC and DVD production, Sir Patrick Stewart portrays the notorious Macbeth while Lady Macbeth, is delivered by Kate Fleetwood. Amazing performances with an even more suitable setting – the Communist Russia. I cannot express in words how much I enjoyed this dark and gothic at times adaptation and I really urge people to watch it as it is not so “famous” in the public. I think that you should be able to find the movie in ytube for free as well; at least, this is where I watched it for the first time some years back.
6. OTHELLO (1995)
Another Kenneth Branagh movie and this time we have Othello, the Moor of Venice and Desdemona, his Venetian wife both caught in Iago’s machinations and the Moor’s uncontrollable jealousy for his young lady. I really like the way Branagh highlights the hidden sexual and erotic aspects of Shakespearean tragedies and this movie is a must-see for any cinephile (and a Shakespearean or not).
5. MACBETH (2015)
Another Macbeth adaptation but this time with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as the killer couple (double pun, see?). Directed by Justin Kurzel (director of the upcoming Assassin’s Creed) this movie unveils the horror traits of the Shakespearean drama. Passion, lust, greed, loss are intertwined gracefully. Kurzel’s Macbeth is dark and twisted but I enjoyed it and I even more enjoyed Fassbender’s performance. I do believe that Cotillard’s was not analogous but she did an excellent job as well.
4. HAMLET (1948)
Of course one Laurence Olivier film should not be missed by such a list and of course his performance as Hamlet should belong to the top five Shakespearean adaptations ever made. The reason why this list is not full with Olivier films is that: a. I still haven’t seen all of his Shakespearean performances. Anyway, I hope everyone is aware of Hamlet’s story, if not go read the damn play! This black and white classic masterpiece is amazing in its fixation with the Oedipal complex. I love how each director when adapting a Shakespearean play into a motion picture adds their own signature by rendering it in an alternative way. This film ponders a lot on hidden sexual desires and incest and I totally recommend it for every person leaving and breathing out there.
3. HAMLET (2015)
Okay, you will have probably realized by now that the top four is focused on Hamlet, right? Right. I told you that Hamlet is my fictional crush but I do believe that the best Shakespearean movies are the Hamletian ones. In this National Theater production, Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Hamlet, the Dane prince who discovers that his uncle, Claudius, mudered his father and then married his mother, Gertrude. The photography in this one and Benedict’s performance are enough to make the Bard cry from his grave. Seriously, some scenes are so rich with colors and dark vibes and epic music which guarantee everyone goosebumps.
This Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of their 2008 play exploits in the best way possible the basic themes of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The theme of surveillance is so heavily propounded while David Tennant’s excellent performance are enough to urge even the most impatient viewer to sit tight and enjoy the film. Plus, it’s a modern-dress production which means that there are no medieval gowns or swords or aristocrats – another reason why I consider this rendering reaches out to younger generations as well.Finally, did I mention that Sir Patrick Stewart stars as Claudius?
Did anyone think that my number one WOULD NOT BE a Hamlet movie? I think I’m so predictable I bore myself at times. Anyway, another Branagh adaptation and I need to explain why this movie belongs to my favorite movies of all time AND to my favorite Bard movies as well.
Friends of mine who are aware that apart from Hamlet, Ophelia speaks greatly to my soul may wonder why I haven’t mentioned her character so far. The answer is simple: I wanted to first talk a little bit about the many Hamlet-s that there are, which to tell you the truth always resemble one another, and then to talk about the many Ophelia-s that we have, which do not resemble one another. If Olivier’s Ophelia highlights her victimization and innocence, if the National Theater’s Ophelia shows a much more psychotic woman (after she gets mad that is), if the RSC’s Ophelia seems much more plain and beautiful in her simplicity, then Branagh’s Ophelia does justice to the character through and through. Kate Winslet gives an extraordinary dramatic performance, one which emphasizes Ophelia’s love for Hamlet and her fragility in the eyes of the man she loved. She is a a true victim and she invokes pathos to the audience; she bleeds by oppression and love. Hamlet, on the other hand, seems much more infatuated with her than many believe him to be, while Branagh’s preoccupation with youthful sexuality in this film is also remarkable. By borrowing medieval and aristocratic settings as well as background characteristics suitable for a dynasty (like the Romanovs’ for example) this movie is the most faithful rendering to the play: thematically and structurally, it constitutes the best film ever made out of a Shakespearean play.
P.S: I still need to watch some Shakespearean movies and you have probably realized that I didn’t have any Romeo and Juliet here but I promise you this is only a sample of my Shakespearean list. I shall probably return with more to add and I hope you stay with me by then to check it out for yourselves.