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David Hugh Jones
When the Duke of Vienna takes a mysterious leave of absence and leaves the strict Angelo in charge, things couldn't be worse for Claudio, who is sentenced to death for premarital sex. His sister, Isabella (a nun-in-training), however, is a very persuasive pleader. She goes to Angelo, but instead of freeing her brother, she gets an offer from Angelo to save Claudio's life if Isabella sleeps with him. The only sympathetic friend Isabella has is a priest who, in actuality, is the Duke in disguise...and he has a plan. Written by
Part of the complete and surprisingly well-done series of filmed Shakespeare
Don't let the Shakespeare part frighten you away. Granted this is not an 'easy' film the way that "Shakespeare in Love" was, or even any versions of "Romeo and Juliet" that you may have seen in the theatre within the past whatever. This is a tale of the price of lust, the quality of mercy and what is true justice.
The BBC filmed the complete Shakespeare folio, and this is part of that. More importantly, this is one of my favorite plays and by far THE best adaptation of it I have ever seen. This is one of Shakespeare's later "problem plays" and as such, actors and experts have been debating it's meaning since it premiered. But I think that makes it challenging, not unintresting. Given that, this production is especially fortunate in it's actors and it's directing choices. First and foremost Kate Nelligan's Isabelle is marvelous. Unlike most modern actors, she seems to understand the true beauty and dedication of this character. Also unlike most modern actors, she understands the religious dedication of this character, not as cold fanatism, but as a passionate persons love of religions greater purpose. That as an atheist I respect her portayal of such, is a testament to her skill. Kenneth Colley and Tim Piggot-Smith are also excellent as the seemingly cold and inscrutable characters of the Duke and Angelo, respectively.
In fact, this play's staging 'improves' the play, in that several problems with the time, that Shakespeare just ignored, are nicely resolved. There is some dialogue left out, but most of it is stage direction that is unnecessary in a television production. Yes, the language is authentic, but trust me, you won't notice after awhile, just give yourself time to immerse.
All in all, a good time, despite it's being a few hundred years old, but that's why Will is the man!
In closing let me just say, that I highly recommend this to anyone, but especially if you love Shakespeare.
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