Films About Shakespeare

We all know about the myriad of adaptations about Shakespeare’s plays, but there are a few adaptations and productions about the man himself. I’ve only looked at three here, but I’m sure there are more. A quick Google search brings up mainly his play adaptations, so if you know of any others, let me know, I’d love to watch them.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

MV5BMTc0ODI2NDk2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTIzNDQ4OQ@@._V1_UY268_CR1,0,182,268_AL_This one is the biggie. The classic Shakespeare film that won all the awards and everyone loved. The British-American romantic comedy-drama was released in 1998 and centres around the fictitious love affair between Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) and Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow), with many characters based on real historical figures. Set in 1593 it shows Shakespeare writing his classic Romeo and Juliet and there are many references to his other works as well. It remains a popular movie with a 93% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, and at the time won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress. Some big names starred in at as well including Judi Dench, Martin Clunes, and Geoffrey Rush. While not that historically accurate it is an interesting and enjoyable film, it was one of my earliest exposures to Shakespeare as a kid and I loved it.

Trailer

IMDB

Anonymous (2011)

MV5BMjAxOTA5MTMxOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDI4MzU0NQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Starring Rhys Ifans as Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, this political thriller and historical drama looks at whether de Vere could be the real author of the Shakespeare plays. I am going to talk more about the authorship debate in a later post so I won’t go into it too much here, but it is a curious claim people have made. De Vere is depicted as a literary prodigy and Elizabeth I’s occasional lover, and many of the events are highly dramatised. Where Shakespeare comes into play is that De Vere uses him as a frontman to have his plays and poems performed. For all the controversy and conspiracy theories, I actually liked this film. It was a compelling case but one deeply flawed and one that did not sway my opinion. So much of the argument is based on ignoring key facts, but despite that, it was interesting.

Trailer

IMDB

Bill (2015)

MV5BNjkxOTkzNDgwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDQxNTg4NzE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_As a lover of the TV series Horrible Histories I was excited to hear the principal performers from it were making a movie about Shakespeare. This adventure-comedy film is a fictitious version of a young Shakespeare’s search for fame and fortune and tries to explain what happened during Shakespeare’s lost years. When Queen Elizabeth I wants a play written Shakespeare sees his chance, and with an evil plot to foil as well there is plenty of excitement and humour on offer. The six lead actors play multiple roles, just like on Horrible Histories, and while unfortunately there are no musical numbers to enjoy, the laughter and cheekiness is prevalent. Mathew Baynton stars as Shakespeare, with Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rockard, and Ben Willbond alongside him.

Trailer

IMDB

Extras

While they’re not massive productions or movies, there have been other instances where Shakespeare has made it to the screen.

Doctor Who

From the classic series to the new era Shakespeare has been a reoccurring figure in many Doctor Who episodes. In 2007 he got an episode devoted entirely to him with The Shakespeare Code. The full list of Shakespeare in Doctor Who can be found here.

Waste of Shame (2005) – Mini Series

This 90 minute television drama focuses on Shakespeare and the composition of his sonnets. The story depicts moments of Shakespeare’s life with Anne and son Hamnet, as well as other life experiences he has that influences his sonnets. Rupert Graves plays Shakespeare with a supporting cast including Zoë Wanamaker, Tom Hiddleston, and Indira Varma.

Trailer

IMDB

William Shakespeare (1978) – Mini Series

This mini-series, also known as Life of Shakespeare and William Shakespeare: his Life & Times, is a historical drama. Broadcast in six parts it is a dramatisation of Shakespeare’s life and each episode was intended to be based around the creation of one of his plays with real life experiences influenced the writing. Shakespeare is played by Tim Curry with Ian McShane as Christopher Marlowe and Paul Freeman as Richard Burbage.

IMDB

The Book With No Name (#1) by Anonymous

Published: May 28th 2008
Goodreads badgePublisher: Michael O’Mara Books
Pages: 379
Format: Book
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Detective Miles Jensen is called to the lawless town of Santa Mondega to investigate a spate of murders. This would all be quite ordinary in those rough streets, except that Jensen is the Chief Detective of Supernatural Investigations. The breakneck plot centers around a mysterious blue stone — The Eye of the Moon—and the men and women who all want to get their hands on it: a mass murderer with a drinking problem, a hit man who thinks he’s Elvis, and a pair of monks among them. Add in the local crime baron, an amnesiac woman who’s just emerged from a five-year coma, a gypsy fortune teller, and a hapless hotel porter, and the plot thickens fast. Most importantly, how do all these people come to be linked to the strange book with no name? This is the anonymous, ancient book that no one seems to have survived reading. Everyone who has ever read it has been murdered. What can this mean?

The Book With No Name, by Anonymous. The title alone made me pick this book up from a book sale and while it wasn’t the greatest book I have read, it was creative, interesting, and definitely unique.

This is the first book in a series called The Bourbon Kid, and I have to say, while I wouldn’t rush out to get the sequels, if I came across them I would read them. Maybe if I leave it long enough my curiosity will peak and I will track down a sequel and see what happens next, but for now I am enjoying that it was a rather good story.
As soon as the story begins we are introduced to the mystery that is the Bourbon Kid, this prologue starts the novel off as the mystery and foreboding doom this man brings haunts a town. Meanwhile, Detective Miles Jensen has arrived in town to investigate a spate of unusual murders, two monks have left their monastery, a mysterious blue stone begins to cause havoc for all those who wish to possess it, there is also a hitman in town who thinks he is Elvis, an amnesiac woman who has woken from a coma, the boyfriend, and the local crime boss. What could possibly go wrong?

There are a lot of people involved in this narrative, and the author switches character perspectives quite a bit so we get to see the story from everyone’s perspective. I’d say seamlessly but I say with caution. Certainly there are no jarring moments, but you can find yourself reading a new paragraph and become confused, only to realise that you’re following a new character with different thoughts.

These switches occur a lot, and truly not always in a confusing manner, but you do have to pay attention and you will get used to it after awhile. I did find, which was quite clever, that because there were so many characters and storylines to follow, by breaking it up for each character and moment you get these kinds of mini scenes, almost like a collection of short stories which are connected to one another in terms of the bigger picture and have been woven together.

In terms of narrative it was drawn out considerably. Not a lot actually happens for the first 3/4 or so of the book, however you did have a sense that it was all necessary by the time you’ve finished. As you read you kept thinking that the next chapter would be where it all erupted and everything fell into place. This does happen in the end but it is a lot to remember and keep track of while you’re getting there. A lot of it was also character introductions, having so many people involved it does start to fill up pages. And while we never get any real back story or history on a lot of the characters, you are provided with a clear representation of their personality and character that eliminates a need for a history to understand them.

Surprisingly with so many characters in play you do not get lost which I thought was amazing, but you do have more people to become potential suspects in whatever is going on which does your head in if you try and figure it out on your own. Of course everyone basically in this novel is suspicious, as well as guilty of many a thing, but whether they are guilty of what you think they are is where the mystery lies.

I will give credit to the author, I liked the reveal when it came, and I liked that after such a long wait the ending was ideal. I didn’t think that anything had been wrapped up quickly, all the pieces suddenly fell into place and started to make perfect sense, just when you didn’t think there could possibly be a reason and connection for everything. That part was rather impressive.

There is violence in this book, but while describing scenes of death and brutality I didn’t find myself revolted or turned off. I put this down to clever writing and the ability to tell a gruesome scene without having to go in explicit detail which can push it into the grotesque and unreadable. But yes, be warned there is a large amount of violence in the book, and swearing, but swearing goes with the setting of the novel, whereas the violence goes with the narrative.

One way around the amount of violence is the supernatural element, not an overbearing amount, but it is there and, like everything and everyone, it is connected as well. It was worrying in the beginning when the possibility was first brought up because I was unsure how it would fit within the established narrative, but as more information was revealed it turned out alright, and you begin to accept that this is just how it is, and you do not spend a lot of time focused on these supernatural elements. This could be because there are so many extreme moments and aspects of unrealism that the extra dose does not really make that much difference.

Two of my favourite quotes, both obscure and seem rather bizarre, but like the book there are plenty of sentences and aspects of dialogue that feel awkward but not enough to be a real concern.

He had been shot in the stomach at point blank range by a man toting a double barrel shotgun. It had hurt terribly, and the wound was still bleeding a little, but it would heal. His wounds always healed, although he had come to accept the fact that gunshots did tend to leave a mark.”

Audrey had no tolerance for mess, but today there was blood everywhere.”

It is these kinds of sentences that make this book charming amongst its faults, quirky lines that seem obvious and almost unworthy of comment, yet it is provided anyway. Some of the phrasing seems a bit awkward but over the course of the book you do not really notice it after awhile, the story gets you in, despite the ambiguity and prolonged revelations.

Finally, we must briefly mention the title and author. I loved that it was mysterious and when I finished the book I loved it even more. I will say no more about it.

Welcome to Santa Mondega, enjoy the ride.