A Pentametric Glance at Shakespeare Films

Shall I compare thee to another film? As Glasgow Film Festival 2013 is closing with Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, we take a look at previous Shakespeare adaptations

Blog by Kirsty Leckie-Palmer | 23 Feb 2013

Titus (Julie Taymor, 1999)

The Players: Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Alan Cumming, Jonathan Rhys Meyers

A wearied Hopkins masked in azure glaze
Becomes the shattered Hannibal of Rome
As Taymor weaves a rare, eclectic maze
Of violent red, cool black and gilded chrome.
When Lavinia, ravished, cannot name the beast
That did the deed; two Goths are named to die
Then served to Tamora in a deadly feasts
For they’ve been baked as sumptuous mortal pie.
Time stratifies and shreds, frames fall away
And glorious retribution finds its part.
When seeking adaptations of this play
Refer to Taymor’s Titus for film art.

Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann, 1996)

The Players: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo, Miriam Margolyes

Baz Luhrmann takes the bard’s most angsty play
To cast a fresh DiCaprio and Danes,
Postmodern, edgy; hence the R+J.
They’re love’s young doom; he cries, she howls, it rains.
Injections of baroque exuberance
Exhilarate this well-worn tragedy
As angel and her armoured soldier dance
To (of all things) a Des’ree melody.
Quick thrills, sleek guns, Hawaiian shirts in throng
A drag queen shimmies as she’s tanning E;
Baz only knows young folks love hard, not long
And young hearts ever will try to run free.

Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)

The Players: Toshirô Mifune, Isuzu Yamada, Akira Kubo, Takashi Shimura

From shadows Kurosawa crafts Macbeth
As Washizu, a warrior samurai.
A film of thunder, fog and creeping death
All captured in Mifune’s fearsome eye.
Commanded at his creepy wife’s behest,
She whispers, “Kill”, kimono white, hands red.
In one fell swoop Washizu strikes his guest,
Betrayal done; he falls, he sighs, he’s dead.
And so, by this, the general earns his keep,
A Cobweb Castle, and a retinue.
But they desert and leave him there to reap
The thousand arrows that his crimes are due.

The Taming of the Shrew (Sam Taylor, 1929)

The Players: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks

Petruchio is Fairbanks with an earring,
Pickford plays a turbo-bitch called Kate.
They’re married forcibly with ample sneering,
He chastises her with force (this shows its date).
Domestic violence seen as quite the stricture,
All cavort with little tact or wit,
And no-one’s used to acting in a picture
In which there’s sound; that’s why they all sound shit.
Although this entry’s poor and now forsaken,
A relic of those times with its detractors,
There’s merit in this monster, if it’s taken
As lesson to would-be Shakespeare adaptors.

Originally published as part of our 2013 Glasgow Film Festival coverage http://glasgowfilm.org/festival/whats_on/4848_much_ado_about_nothing