Is it weird to celebrate someone’s death? Not as in “we are glad that bastard died”, but more in a “let’s honour his memory” way. Well, today is the 399th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, which has been usually celebrated along with the death of another great writer of his generation, Miguel de Cervantes (although the author of Don Quixote actually died on April 22).
Since what I usually write about is film and television, what a better way to pay tribute to the Bard than with my favourite adaptations of his plays? That means, of course, that this will be quite a subjective article, but then again, all my posts are! Enjoy.
No, there’s no Hamlet in this; there are way too many versions.
The Hollow Crown: Henry IV
What’s not to love about the first instalment of this BBC masterpiece? A four-part miniseries that adapted Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and II and Henry V, this had it all: the acting, the settings…It was utterly powerful. If I had to choose one story out of the three, I’d go with Henry IV, because we get to see Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston interact with each other as King Henry IV and Prince Hal (Henry V in the following story). Although Ben Whishaw’s performance as Richard II took my breath away, if we are being honest. Get ready next year for the second instalment about Henry VI and Richard III, with Tom Sturridge, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Gambon and Judi Dench. I really can’t wait to watch that.
10 Things I Hate About You
Okay, this is not an adaptation like the others, but more like a “based on” story. This time, said story is The Taming of the Shrew and it stars the late Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Julia Stiles. Forget that this is a teen romantic comedy, it is way over that label. And the scene where Ledger sings ‘Cant Take My Eyes Off You” is heart-melting.
Much Ado About Nothing
This 1993 version of Shakespeare’s comedy is the very first Kenneth Branagh film I ever watched, and I remember loving everything: the constantly sunny atmosphere, the witty dialogues, the light dresses, the happiness all around. Even though my favourite one of Shakepeare’s comedies is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this is undoubtedly my favourite adaptation of a comedy.
Of all of the Bard’s “lesser known” plays, my favourite ones are Cymbeline and The Tempest. This 2010 Julie Taymor adaptation of the latter really struck me and instantly became one of my must-see movies. It stars Helen Mirren, which already adds tons of quality and class to the film, in a female version of Prospero. Include Felicity Jones, Ben Whishaw, David Strathairn, Alfred Molina, Russell Brand, Djimon Hounsou and a magical-looking island and you will understand why this movie is part of the list. And Whishaw sings.
Romeo and Juliet
I was a little kid in the 1990s, which means I was in the midst of that Leonardo DiCaprio craziness that dominated the second part of the decade and started with his portrayal of Romeo. But first things first, we need to forget about that Baz Luhrmann adaptation of the lovers of Verona, because there is only one film that can be considered “The Film”, and that is Franco Zeffirelli’s version from 1968. It is just the way a Romeo and Juliet movie should be. The sets, the costumes, the superb score by Nino Rota, the perfect chemistry between Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, who were born to play those roles… I highly doubt there will ever be a better retelling of this tragedy.