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Why are film adaptations of Shakespeare unpopular?


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Old 31-07-2014, 22:18
djfunnyman
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I've thought of 2 possible reasons;

1. Shakespeare films can be boring to watch when set in the 1500's and are too old fashioned and slow

2. When a modern adaptation actually was created with Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet it offended die hard Shakespeare fans so directors haven't been brave enough to try this since

What do you think?
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Old 01-08-2014, 00:07
rufus oculus
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Have you seen Olivier's Henry V? Or Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight. Or Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood?
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Old 01-08-2014, 03:13
Billy Hicks
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1. Generally it's extremely difficult to understand the language - you'll get a minority of audience who know the play and know what's going on but this is much more in audiences for theatrical performances, anyone passing by their cinema wanting to see a quick film has a trickier time. You could rewrite it into modern English but then you're just making a film adapted from it, not technically a Shakespeare original.

2. They're bloody long. The likes of Hamlet and King Lear are three to four hours in their original form, and most film (and indeed theatre) adaptations cut major chunks out of it - or do what Kenneth Branagh did and keep everything, which makes a hell of a long film that many would struggle to sit through.

3. Despite groundbreakingly modern performances over the last several decades, mention Shakespeare to a lot of the general public and they'll think of tedious old-fashioned theatre shows with men in silly costumes saying silly words in silly deep voices, which is very rarely how any of his plays are performed today but the stereotype still remains. Coupled with that and bad memories of GCSE English and Drama scene studies, Shakespeare may forever be critically acclaimed and his plays constantly performed around the world - but put a film up against the latest Marvel superhero flick and the latter's going to win any day.

There is one fairly recent exception and that was the one you mentioned (Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet) but to be fair this sold massively on the strength of Leonardo DiCaprio's looks, which got teenage girls flooding to cinemas and acted as a warm-up for the behemoth of Titanic a year later.
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Old 01-08-2014, 03:52
Trsvis_Bickle
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I've thought of 2 possible reasons;

1. Shakespeare films can be boring to watch when set in the 1500's and are too old fashioned and slow

2. When a modern adaptation actually was created with Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet it offended die hard Shakespeare fans so directors haven't been brave enough to try this since

What do you think?
I really don't think 2. works as an argument. Out of a typical cinema audience, how many are going to be 'die hard Shakespeare fans'? Very few is my guess. Lurhman's Romeo & Juliet was not aimed at Shakespeare aficianadoes at all; it was aimed at a populist audience. I rather liked it, although Shakespeare's dialogue never feels right when spoken by Americans. Anyway, wasn't Luhrman's film very successful? Surely that would mean that directors would be eager to emulate this success?
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Old 01-08-2014, 09:44
Inkblot
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Interesting question. Theatre in Shakespeare's time was the closest thing to modern-day cinema: going to see a play was probably like sitting in a run-down Cineworld surrounded by people chatting during the bits they don't like and cheering at the bits they do like. Only you'd be standing up, and for a very long time. So the first reason Shakespeare's plays don't work on film is that nowadays people don't respond to Shakespeare in the ways that they used to. Luhrman's Romeo+Juliet addressed this in part by making the play more relevant to a young, modern audience but it couldn't recreate the excitement audiences used to feel when they saw a Shakespeare play on stage. Modern theatre productions try to achieve this by casting actors from popular TV shows and ramping up the gore and special effects. As a result audiences are flocking to see Martin Freeman play Richard III, and laughing somewhat inappropriately when he gives a trademark raised eyebrow, or gasping when the front row gets sprayed with stage blood. But would that kind of in-your-face Shakespeare work on film?

The other reasons why Shakespeare doesn't often work on film are practical ones. The length of the plays has already been mentioned. The plays have a large cast of characters, and it can take time to work out who's who, and why one character wants to kill/take revenge on/sleep with another. The plots are often implausible and rely on huge suspension of disbelief by the audience, and cinema undermines this because we can see the problems so much more clearly. I think the bottom line is that Shakespeare's plays have many strengths and many weaknesses, and that the stage brings out the strengths but the cinema brings out the weaknesses.
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Old 01-08-2014, 10:09
mialicious
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10 things i hate about you and the lion king are quite popular.
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Old 01-08-2014, 10:27
timebug
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I thought Kurasawa's 'Ran' was an excellent adaptation
of King Lear,giving him three sons instead of three daughters,
and the BBC 'Hollow Crown' series was brilliant, comprised of
the four plays in the 'Henriad' 'Richard II, Henry IV Parts one and
two and Henry V.
Polanski's 'Macbeth' was also superb, (never mind what became
of the director later!) You have to attune your ears to the rhythm
of the language and once you do (takes me around ten minutes
on average) it is wonderful stuff,and that would be why it is so
often modernised, plagiarised and generally has plots stolen
from!
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Old 01-08-2014, 14:38
Rorschach
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They aren't unpopular.

West Side Story has a 94% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Forbidden Planet 98%
The Lion King 90%
Throne of Blood 98%
Henry V 100%
A Midsummer Night's Dream 67%
Much Ado About Nothing 84% Whedon and 91% Branagh
Richard III (McKellan) 96%
Prospero's Books 67%
Ran 95%
The Merchant of Venice 72%
Othello 61%
"O" 64%
Romeo & Juliet 72%
10 Things I Hate About You 61%

Even Gnomeo and Juliet managed 55%.

I've watched most of these, and I own several of them.

So instead of explaining why you think they are unpopular, how about explaining why you are under the impression they are unpopular.

Or is it just that you don't like them?
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Old 01-08-2014, 15:50
Gort
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They aren't unpopular.

West Side Story has a 94% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Forbidden Planet 98%
The Lion King 90%
Throne of Blood 98%
Henry V 100%
A Midsummer Night's Dream 67%
Much Ado About Nothing 84% Whedon and 91% Branagh
Richard III (McKellan) 96%
Prospero's Books 67%
Ran 95%
The Merchant of Venice 72%
Othello 61%
"O" 64%
Romeo & Juliet 72%
10 Things I Hate About You 61%

Even Gnomeo and Juliet managed 55%.

I've watched most of these, and I own several of them.

So instead of explaining why you think they are unpopular, how about explaining why you are under the impression they are unpopular.

Or is it just that you don't like them?
Not that I'm agreeing with the OP, but you're citing critical praise rather than popularity; both are often not the same. Maybe a more accurate way to show popularity would be to see how many bums on seats each of those films scored.
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Old 01-08-2014, 17:45
djfunnyman
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They aren't unpopular.

West Side Story has a 94% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Forbidden Planet 98%
The Lion King 90%
Throne of Blood 98%
Henry V 100%
A Midsummer Night's Dream 67%
Much Ado About Nothing 84% Whedon and 91% Branagh
Richard III (McKellan) 96%
Prospero's Books 67%
Ran 95%
The Merchant of Venice 72%
Othello 61%
"O" 64%
Romeo & Juliet 72%
10 Things I Hate About You 61%

Even Gnomeo and Juliet managed 55%.

I've watched most of these, and I own several of them.

So instead of explaining why you think they are unpopular, how about explaining why you are under the impression they are unpopular.

Or is it just that you don't like them?
My question is mainly why not many film adaptations of Shakespeare are made
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Old 01-08-2014, 18:08
Rorschach
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My question is mainly why not many film adaptations of Shakespeare are made
That's not a complete list, it's a quick list of films I've seen and a few others I remember. Google will come up with many more (She's the One?).

There aren't many playwrights who can compete with his influence on films. Particularly not ones from 300 years ago.
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Old 01-08-2014, 18:10
Rorschach
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Not that I'm agreeing with the OP, but you're citing critical praise rather than popularity; both are often not the same. Maybe a more accurate way to show popularity would be to see how many bums on seats each of those films scored.
Indeed, but in most cases audience ratings are very close if not higher.

I can't remember hearing any of them lost a load of money, but I'm off to the pictures now so don't have the time to look it up.
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Old 01-08-2014, 19:38
rufus oculus
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More film adaptions of Shakespeare's plays have been made than by any other writer in history right from the dawn of cinema. I think the OP means straightforward adaptions of the plays rather than films that just use a play as a springboard such as Kiss Me Kate, West Side Story or The Lion King. Such films could be enjoyed without realising they are based on his plays. I think people who are unwilling to give, say, Branagh's Hamlet or Olivier's Henry V a go because it is full of "old fashioned" language are the same types who say black and white films are not for them. A totally fatuous reason for not watching a film.
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Old 01-08-2014, 21:13
mgvsmith
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My question is mainly why not many film adaptations of Shakespeare are made
Well how many film adaptations do you want? I thought that was a good list above, the best adaptation being 'Throne of Blood'.

I remember listening to Ken Branagh talking on the radio about the time that his musical version of 'Love's Labour Lost' was being released and he said something like "if Shakespeare was alive today he would do his plays quite differently". And I thought to myself if Shakespeare was alive today he probably be writing and directing a movie like 'Goodfellas' or a TV series like 'Breaking Bad', not redoing his old works.

Many of Shakespeare's plays are adaptations themselves, based on real events or the historical work of Hollinshed or Edward Hall. The language is a little difficult but the multi-layered aspect of the plays is reflected in films like 'Citizen Kane', 'The Godfather' or 'Bladerunner'.
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Old 01-08-2014, 22:17
Spacedone
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Have you seen Olivier's Henry V? Or Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight. Or Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood?
Or even some of the recent BBC adaptations such as Patrick Stewart's Macbeth (great setting) or The Hollow Crown series (Richard II, Henry IV part 1 and part 2). I don't really go out of my way to watch Shakespeare but those were excellent.
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Old 01-08-2014, 22:36
Takae
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My question is mainly why not many film adaptations of Shakespeare are made
There are 1,022 film and TV film adaptations.

The first film adaptation - Macbeth - was released in 1898. There are 22 film adaptations currently in production for the period between 2014 and 2015.

And you say 'not many'?

You're funny.
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Old 01-08-2014, 22:41
Takae
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I think the OP means straightforward adaptions of the plays rather than films that just use a play as a springboard such as Kiss Me Kate, West Side Story or The Lion King.
It'd be pretty impossible, though. Not just because of the language. The pacing, length and dialogue of a Shakespeare play will make the production long and extremely expensive. It'll bore the audience rigid as well. Even if it was made during the 1940s.
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Old 01-08-2014, 22:51
mgvsmith
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It'd be pretty impossible, though. Not just because of the language. The pacing, length and dialogue of a Shakespeare play will make the production long and extremely expensive. It'll bore the audience rigid as well. Even if it was made during the 1940s.
Maybe as a mini-series? In the style of 'Game of Thrones'?
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Old 01-08-2014, 23:06
Takae
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Maybe as a mini-series? In the style of 'Game of Thrones'?
Worth a try.

The BBC did attempt with The Hollow Crown in 2012: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2262456/ or http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00s90hz
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Old 02-08-2014, 03:09
JCR
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I can't wait for the Michael Fassbender Macbeth. If he wins the best actor Oscar for it next February, this thread is getting bumped.

You can certainly argue that Laurence Olivier's Hamlet is one of the great films of it's time. In terms of pure atmosphere it's up there with Night of the Hunter.
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Old 02-08-2014, 07:06
Fairyprincess0
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I've been meaning to 'brush up my shakespeare' for a while now. I don't think i'll ever have the consentration to read any of it. Anywhy, their plays not books. I think their probably best seen, rather then read.

That said, I've not seen very much. Lurhmans Romeo, branaghs much ado (which I adore.) Liz and dicks taming of the shrew.

I'd like to get to see, mackellens Richard 111, gibsons hamlet, more branagh, and anything with Olivier in.....
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Old 02-08-2014, 07:19
dearmrman
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There are 1,022 film and TV film adaptations.

The first film adaptation - Macbeth - was released in 1898. There are 22 film adaptations currently in production for the period between 2014 and 2015.

And you say 'not many'?

You're funny.
Wow...that's a lot of remakes.
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Old 02-08-2014, 10:37
mgvsmith
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Worth a try.

The BBC did attempt with The Hollow Crown in 2012: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2262456/ or http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00s90hz
And then they did Webster's 'Duchess of Malfi' live in a Jacobean theatre.
The BBC are giving it a go.
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Old 02-08-2014, 10:58
Pointy
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Wow...that's a lot of remakes.
Technically, they wouldn't be remakes.
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Old 02-08-2014, 14:20
spiney2
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because they are not cinematic.

try Derek Jarman's version of The Tempest.

http://www.fandor.com/keyframe/the-tempest

the famous 78 macbeth - remember when itv did shakespeare - also comes to mind.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xHlngY6Bgk
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