Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of this production of Richard the Second
I'm sorry. I'm very sorry. Both sorry that I bought this DVD and sorry that I have to brand it as talentless hack-work. But I really have to.
The DVD sleeve is the single most deceptive thing I have ever seen. After quoting three positive reviews (one Phil Hall calling it "one of the finest contemporary Shakespeare films", thus revealing that he has seen few, if any, contemporary Shakespeare films), the sleeve goes on to say that the play is adapted for "the big screen". What big screen?! It's shot on video for a straight-to-video release! There's never been no steenkin' big screen involved.
And the sleeve continues its preposterous praise: "Peerless tale"? "Devastating study"? "Imaginatively shot"? "Blessed by a gifted young cast"? Let's try the truth instead. I'm just a seasoned Shakespeare appreciator who collects Shakespeare movies. I'm not a cynic nor by any means someone who enjoys rubbing people's face in the dirt - unless they have well and truly deserved it. I have no reason to be mean to this production except what reason its own merits give rise to. Hence, I say, let's try the truth.
The actors may be young, and possibly even gifted (this, however, does not come through clearly here), but it were too much to call them a blessing. They are clearly not used to Shakespearean acting, but maybe this is simply because they are American. Be that as it may, the real problem is not the actors but the general production. This is a Shakespeare movie made by somebody who is used to neither Shakespeare nor movie-making. The movie-making, in particular, is simply too sloppy and amateurish (and I'm being objective here) to allow any statements of any kind to come through in the movie itself. The sound is utterly awful, which is a disaster for a Shakespeare movie. The picture quality and camera work are like something out of somebody's private home movies (again, I am not denigrating the production, but being truthful about it). This production is a pet or student project for (presumably) the director's own shelf. It bears all the hallmarks of some amateur who doesn't take film-making seriously and hasn't bothered to learn the most basic requirements of the field.
Thus much the truth. A Shakespeare movie *can* be worse than this: the actors might have had brown paper bags over their heads as they mumbled their unintelligible lines, but this production did not, at least, venture *that* far into surrealist territory. I rate this "movie" a 2 out of 10 instead of a 1, purely because of the sheer gumption of even attempting to adapt Richard II. This movie stands as a lesson for all who think that such adaptation is a breeze. You just CANNOT do Shakespeare meaningfully unless you really, REALLY know what you're doing.
If you want to do Shakespeare, cut your teeth on something easier first. Please.
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