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Dated but Decent Shakespeare Film, with One Pathetic Scene

Author: Cineanalyst
10 January 2010

This adaptation of Shakespeare's play is certainly dated, but it's not bad (except for one part) for a two-reeler from 1913. The plot of the play is rendered well enough and is self-contained—it requires no familiarity with the original source. Some tableau-style relics were still relied upon, such as the title cards that explain the action before we see it, but there's some scene dissection. Additionally, there are a good number of close-ups and, in general, the camera recorded from rather intimate positions. It's stagy, however, and the camera positions, settings and busy extras in the background create confined, cramped spaces, which, unfortunately, were common of Thanhouser productions at the time. (The studio's 1912 "Nicholas Nickleby" is even worse in that respect.) The filmmakers at least attempted some nice lighting effects for the bedchamber scene where Iachimo steals Imogen's bracelet; as a result, it's the standout sequence of the film.

On the other hand, this "Cymbeline" also features one of the most pathetic battle scenes I've ever seen captured on nitrate. A clash between the Roman army and British forces is portrayed by maybe a dozen performers who can't pretend to fight at all. Sure, this was 1913 but that's no excuse; see Griffith's battle sequence in "The Battle at Elderbush Gulch" or the Inceville Indian wars in "Custer's Last Fight" and "The Invaders". Or, the filmmakers could've done more to avoid staging the battle, which others did at this stage of the young cinema.

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