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Jonathan Miller chose to set the play in a Renaissance milieu rather than a classical one, as he felt it was really about Elizabethan England rather than ancient Troy, and as such, he hoped the production would carry relevance for a contemporary TV audience; "I feel that Shakespeare's plays and all the works of the classic rank, of literary antiquity, must necessarily be Janus-faced. And one merely pretends that one is producing pure Renaissance drama; I think one has to see it in one's own terms. Because it is constantly making references, one might as well be a little more specific about it. Now that doesn't mean that I want to hijack them for the purposes of making the plays address themselves specifically to modern problems. I think what one wants to do is to have these little anachronistic overtones so that we're constantly aware of the fact that the play is, as it were, suspended in the twentieth-century imagination, halfway between the period in which it was written and the period in which we are witnessing it. And then there is of course a third period being referred to, which is the period of the Greek antiquity." See more »
This is, along with Pericles, Timon of Athens and All's Well That Ends Well (just for starters), the only filmed version of the play available. Although the production is not bad, you get the feeling that if there was a new filmed production it would supersede it.
The star of the film is Charles Gray as Pandarus, Cressida's camp uncle and matchmaker. He gets some of the best lines, referring to young lovers as a "generation of vipers", and he is wonderfully decadent yet also quite touching in his love for his niece.
For me, the soldiers all blended into one, apart from Patrolucus, Hector (once identified) and Thyerstes (Jack Birkett), a grotesquely camp soldier commenting on some of the action in the camp.
As the lovers, Anton Lesser is suitably tender as Troilus though not particularly interesting. Suzanne Burden speaks the verse clearly but she lacks spark and flirtatiousness. Their tragedy is that Troilus is true in love whereas Cressida is a flirt and cannot stay true, even if she loves Troilus.
I haven't read the play so I can only judge it by what I see here. There are some great lines and emotional love scenes, and some great characters in Cressida, Panderus and Thyerstes. The story is set during the Trojan War. Cressida and Troilus are in love but her fidelity is tested when she becomes a prisoner of the Greeks. Beware- at the end, there is a very powerful gruesome scene. Thematically it is very interesting: the subjects being war and lechery. Shakespeare draws parallels between the two and the two world clash together at the end for a grotesque finish.
Is it a tragedy or a comedy? Some have called it a satire but I think it's more of a tragedy with political commentary. It's an interesting play that I'd like to explore more.
In short, this production is not bad (long though) but overall it lacks something of the greater productions, such as Measure for Measure and Pericles.
EDIT: Actually looking back on this, I think Suzanne Burden, whilst not doing a great job, does a slightly better job than I thought. I think she lacks Cressida's crassness; Cressida is essentially one of the boys. She wants to play by men's rules but can't. However she does get Cressida's vulnerability across well. For all her bawdy talk, she is a maiden when she meets Troilus. I think her ability to stay true is not simply because she's a flirt, but because she is afraid of commitment. She reveals a lot of her heart to Troilus but as soon as she says a nice thing she has to undermine it with a cynical one. Though Cressida knows that Troilus loves her, she can't quite believe it until she is confronted with another man. That's why it's such a shame that this play is not done more; it's Shakespeare's most modern and incisive study of relationships.
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