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A duke usurps his brother's land and power, banishing him and his retinue into the forest of Arden. The banished duke's daughter, Rosalind, remains with her cousin Celia. She has fallen in love with Orlando, but he has his own tyrannical brother to contend with, so he joins those in the forest. Rosalind, now banished, disguises herself as a young man, with Celia as her servant, and follows Orlando into the forest. There, nature stirs love's fires in various rustics as well as in those from the court. Phebe, a shepherdess loved by Silvius, is herself smitten with the disguised Rosalind. Can true love find a way, and can brothers be reconciled and harmony restored? Written by
There used to be a thing called the classical method of delivering Shakespearean dialogue. And while this method may help an actor or actress be heard and understood from the back of a theatre when on stage, it is not necessary in a film where artificial amplification is available. Olivier was one of the first to realize this as his gentle, natural, and easily understood delivery of the lines here shows. Leon Quartermaine, as Jaques, is similarly easy to follow, and his rendition of the most famous speech from this play is thoughtful and easy to get along with.
You also get a fair bit of the more pompous formal style. In reviews of other films you may read that modern actors mumble their lines, don't know how to speak Shakespeare and so on. Watch this movie and find out what they wish everyone sounded like.
The costumes, which have a fourteenth century feel to them, are highly unflattering. One feels that the costumes and settings were devised to match people's expectations of what Shakespeare ought to look like. A little imagination would have paid big dividends.
What makes this film really difficult to watch, however, is the most important person in the whole play. As You Like It centres on Rosalind. What possessed the producers to cast for this part a woman who couldn't act, spoke English with an accent so thick you could spread it on toast, has no feel for Shakespeare and doesn't even look good is beyond the comprehension of this mere mortal. Trying to comprehend Elisabeth Bergner is practically impossible. The old-fashioned and unimaginitive approach to the play might be tolerable, but not without a Rosalind.
A new treatment of this play is long overdue.
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