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"The Hollow Crown" Richard II (2012)

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22 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Stunning - just stunning

Author: glasslens from London
3 July 2012

Richard II is not on the list of Shakespeare plays that I would normally watch - certainly not at the theatre. But, as a bit of a Shakespeare buff, I thought I'd give this a go. From start to finish, this was just an amazing production. All of the key members of the cast were at the top of their already fine form. Ben Wishaw, as Richard, was outstanding and brought out just how dull many of the previous Richards such as Olivier had been in comparison. Rupert Goolde's direction brought out so much from his cast and his timing - so vital in Shakespeare, was spot on. But I have to say that Danny Cohen's cinematography was the absolute star of the show. Every shot - and I mean every shot - was beautiful. Beautiful in composition, in movement, in lighting and in grading. The TV just glowed in fantastic shot after shot. I think it was shot on video rather than film but this is the very best "film look" I've yet to see. And let's not forget the sound - always perfectly clear, beautifully recorded and mixed. For those of us who often despair at the production values of TV drama, this was a delight to see. Let us hope that other TV drama execs will see and learn. A huge congratulations to everyone involved.

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22 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Almost perfect

Author: alfa-16 from Rural Kent, UK
10 July 2012

The best Shakespeare on film since McKellen's Richard III.

Unfairly unloved, perhaps because of the unfamiliar politics in it opening scenes, Richard II is Shakespeare's watershed. It has much in it which would have been familiar to the Elizabethan theatre goer-but also contains mountains of innovation, such as Richard's soliloquy after his confinement, which look forward to Hamlet and beyond. This is the play where iambic pentameter really broke free of its rhyming chains and although not everyone can place it correctly, Richard II contains some of Shakespeare's finest poetry.

And what a fantastic Richard we have in Ben Whishaw, delivering the personal tragedy and the political betrayal with the combination of power and finesse that the role demands but rarely receives. Even Ian McKellen, in his landmark production for the BBC in the 80's, didn't catch the sheer majesty of Richard's defiant surrender at Flint castle.

The entire cast is outstanding and the producers did well to enlist two great female actresses for the parts of Isabella and the Duchess of York and retain the bulk of parts that are often cut to shreds. Retaining more of Isabella's lines would have helped Clemence Poesy make her Queen memorable but no on will forget Lindsay Duncan's rescue of her son.

However, Rory Kinnear takes second honours, providing an utterly mesmerising foil for Whishaw's Richard and the electricity crackles between them in the fantastic deposition scenes hit the summits of dramatic power. You won't see better. There isn't better.

Beautifully shot and engineered, there isn't a scene that doesn't look stunning, a word that cannot be clearly understood or a plot line that cannot be easily followed. The sheer mastery of the play's intensely psychological portrait of kingship and power is made easily accessible to newcomers to Shakespearean drama and language.

Utterly brilliant. Well done everyone involved.

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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Living, vital Shakespeare

Author: Deana Morris from United Kingdom
30 June 2012

A thousand years ago I studied Richard II for O-level English with my fellow classmates in Olwyn Lemar's English lessons at the dreadful, dreary comprehensive, Drayton School. It is a tribute to Mrs Lemar's talents that we could put together essays on is play, for although it is packed with soldiers, swords and kings it deals with great ideas - loyalty, betrayal, greed, fear, cowardice, love.

This film of Henry Bolingbroke's betrayal, banishment and return, a King's wickedness, weakness and vanity, is beautifully shot, marvellously acted, perfectly cast.

Shakespeare's glory is its Truth, it's exploration of the core of all that we are - greedy, ambitious, wicked, good, loyal, proud and ridiculous.Our lives are mirrored in the past and the struggles for power are forever.

A powerful story, a powerful production, a stellar cast. Well worth your time. Enjoy.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

I can see this Shakespeare chap going places

Author: 086 jpm from Dublin
17 July 2012

I just finished watching this and I thought it was a fantastic production. There is so much to rave about from the cast, to the direction, the sets and even the score.

A particularly wonderful touch was the way Richard 2 was played like an unearthly Micheal Jackson character, he even had a monkey, a perfect nuance to the divine and lofty king Richard 2.

The cutting dialog was beautiful and wonderfully ambiguous, each line gives you a sense of wonder and sometimes a wow. I looked up the author and I can see this Shakespeare chap going places, he may even win a Bafta award someday.

Well-done the BeeB for commissioning this and I am now looking forward to the rest of the hollow crown series.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Exceptionally made Shakespeare adaptation

Author: Leofwine_draca from United Kingdom
28 November 2014

THE HOLLOW CROWN was a BBC miniseries of Shakespeare historical plays first broadcast in 2012. I recorded them all that time ago, but have only just got around to watching the first; of course, Shakespeare can be very dry and there are always more fun things to watch in the mean time.

Anyway, I needn't have worried because RICHARD II turns out to be a fabulous adaptation of the play. It features pitch-perfect acting, a wonderful realisation of a historical world, and plenty of excellent moments which excel in bringing Shakespeare to life. It's also a mature and sometimes graphic tale that serves in bringing to life one of the intriguing of English kings.

The production isn't entirely perfect, as it's a little overlong and drawn out, but then again this isn't one of Shakespeare's best plays. It's very simplistic stuff, detailing an initial series of events and then playing out the consequences of them. But what a cast! Ben Whishaw is equally as good here as he was in THE HOUR, and the supporting players include David Morrissey, James Purefoy, Patrick Stewart, David Suchet, and Rory Kinnear, none of whom put a foot wrong. Sterling work indeed, then, and here's to HENRY IV PART I...

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Poor Richards

Author: proteus6847 from United States
4 November 2014

Watching Rupert Goold's film of Richard II (2012), featuring Ben Whishaw in the title role, I was initially intrigued and then swiftly dismayed by Whishaw's cinematic inwardness. Richard is frankly despicable in his early scenes, but he can ultimately win over the audience through the extremity of his suffering, the flight of his poetry and the prophetic intensity of his insights. Unfortunately, Whishaw conveys nothing but increasing introversion and remoteness, and so remains loathsome throughout. (His closest relationship is with his pet monkey). At Wales, he climbs a sand dune to deliver his speeches, hoping that physical elevation will lift him to the heights that his passion cannot reach. He remains abstracted and withdrawn at Flint Castle, where his Richard is so intent on producing an effect that he seems to feel nothing but stage-jitters. His colloquies with Aumerle are like whispered conversations in the wings on the order of "How am I doing?" This may be an interpretive choice; it is also an evasion of the central challenge. If Whishaws were horses, Ben would be a hack.

David Tennant's Richard for the RSC (2013) is equally inadequate in a different mode. During an interview shown before the play, director Gregory Doran declares that "Whatever David does, he is absolutely contemporary!" If by that he means "incapable of dealing with heightened language and profound emotion," he is correct. Unlike Whishaw with his ever-receding solipsism, Tennant tries to supply these deficiencies with his trademark cheeky humor. As a result, he is the funniest Richard I have ever seen (even funnier than Fiona Shaw), but I think that the play is meant to be a tragedy.

Why should an audience care about a Richard as aloof, callow, trifling and ordinary as Tennant's or Whishaw's? In possible awareness of this problem, Doran and Goold resort to the exact same device to generate a measure of belated sympathy. Flouting Shakespeare and Holinshed, they have Richard assassinated by Aumerle instead of Exton, and they further present Aumerle as Richard's actual or would-be lover. In order to wipe out the taint of his abortive treason, Aumerle (we are to understand) destroys the thing he loves at the real or imagined behest of the incorrigibly heterosexual Bolingbroke.

In short, both directors portray Richard as a martyr to homophobia, something that Marlowe's Edward so obviously is, but that Shakespeare's Richard so obviously is not. Goold drives home the point with sledgehammer subtlety by depicting Richard as the most famous of all gay icons: Stripped to a loincloth, he is shot to death with arrows. Doran does nothing quite so blatant, but he does have Richard and Aumerle share a lingering kiss, and he directs Tennant to be distant and unloving towards his Queen. His farewell kiss to her in their final scene is perfunctory, and when she responds with a more ardent kiss, he does not reciprocate.

Thus, Richard meets his doom in both productions implicitly proclaiming "I am Edward II, know ye not that?" The audience is meant to think of gay-bashing and wipe away a tear. But there may be some who feel that the countertextual triggering of irrelevant responses does not make up for actors who are "absolutely contemporary" and therefore unable to cope with classical magnitude and pathos. And there may be some who are more moved by the plight of Richard's Queen than by the factitious vagaries of his liaison with Aumerle, a relationship with no more tragic grandeur than Oscar and Bosie's.

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Powerful acting, a lot going on, a beautiful experience

Author: NoEarthlyReason from England
1 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The film opens with Richard hearing accusations of treason from Henry, Duke of Purford, against Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk as they stand side by side before the King in his palace. They throw down their gauntlets and refuse to pick them up when Richard orders them to. At the resulting joust where they are to fight to the death, Richard stops the action before a blow is landed, and banishes both men from Britain, Henry for ten years (twice five summers) and Mowbray for life. On seeing the sadness of John of Gaunt, Henry's elderly uncle, he reduces Henry's sentence by four years. Thus, by this high handed mismanagement of men, the scene is set for Richard's eventual imprisonment by Henry, who forces him to abdicate so he can be crowned king.

Richard is petulant, childish, vindictive and manically duplicitous, and surrounded by sycophants, while Henry is good hearted, strong, fair, straightforward, intelligent and (to start with) unswervingly loyal. The other characters are all realistically drawn and along with the action, which varies from soul-baring soliloquies to brutal but never gratuitous violence, and the grand sets and locations, including cathedrals, churches, castles and dungeons and beautiful coastal and forested places as well as truly stunning landscaped gardens, make this beautifully filmed adaptation a highly engrossing watch.

For those not familiar with Shakespeare (like me) and the period of history, things can get a little bit confusing with all the many different characters, the iambic pentameter and medieval language, and the intricacies of the drama. However, the film was very enjoyable and will make any reading of the history behind it extremely interesting. The language and the way it is delivered is very beguiling although I sometimes found it hard to follow, due to its complexity and unfamiliarity and its poetic nature. This is probably a good thing, though, as it means Shakespeare can be watched repeatedly without feeling stale.

I'm looking forward to watching the whole series.

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:


Author: keshby3636 from texas
15 November 2013

I would have found this an excellent film except for the fact that I could not get behind Whishaw portrayal of Richard II as effeminate if not gay with all the men he eyes and surrounds himself with, shallow king who seems to view himself as a contemporary Christlike figure. I cringe as I watched the veteran actors strong characterizations against what I found a weak and disappointing interpretation of Shakespeare by Whishaw who is a good actor. I confess I didn't like him in Bright Star either. Horrible take on Keats but that's for another review! I must also say I was let down by Patrick Stewart's "other eden" monologue. I felt very little emotion when he spoke the famous lines. A nod to Rory Kinnear who quietly gave a great performance. A very underrated actor that I hope to see in more Shakespeare brought to screen. I also enjoyed watching David Suchet, who did an excellent job. Still, it's worth seeing as my opinion is just opinion!

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3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Richard II: A bit overdrawn in the delivery, which stilts the flow

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
8 September 2012

I recorded all of the recent BBC presentations of these four plays and, as is the way, they sat on the harddrive while "easier" fare was watched in preference. I decided to start the films though because I had heard nothing but good things and, while I had seen some of them on stage or in other films, I don't think I had ever seen Richard II before. The plot here sees the fall of a rather aloof and effeminate Richard almost at his own hands, as his ill treatment of two men comes back on him in the form of a rebellion – a rebellion that his fey ways are unable to command sufficient loyalty to prevent. It leads to the crowning of a new King and leads into the next film Henry IV part 1.

As a story the film is pretty easy to follow, which for me is always a massive plus – that even those such as myself who struggle with Shakespeare's language when written, are aided in understanding and appreciation by the delivery. That was the case here and although I did not fully appreciate the significance of all scenes, I was more than able to follow the story. In terms of the language I was also able to keep up but there seemed to be something missing here from what I am used to finding from Shakespeare – the language. I'm not sure if this is part of the play or more down to this version of it, but for me the language did not quite have the energy and beauty that I have come to expect. Again I'm not sure if this is the play or the performance but everything did feel subdued and rather restrained – like it was trying so hard to tell a proper story that it seemed unwilling to do so with grand flourishes that contrast against the rather gritty and graceless fall of Richard II. As a result my ear didn't take to it as much as I expected and it didn't grip me in the way his language often does.

The cast's delivery is part of this but they do as directed and are good whether it is for the best or not. So, for example, I thought Whishaw was a good Richard because he was weak, conceited, disconnected and fey; problem was that he does these things so well that he is hard to be interested in as a person because he is little more than these characteristics. Kinnear is too sturdy to capture anger and passion and the supporting players may all do well but nobody adds fire to the play (although it is good to see Suchet, Purefoy, Morrissey and others).

So, again I stress that this play was new to me and as a result i may be picking on the film for doing what all version have done, but for me this was a bit too long and lacking in the sharp edge and quick colour that I expect from Shakespeare. The performances seem folded in a little bit, playing very much to the seriousness of the piece and this does make it feel a bit heavy and leaden at times. It was an engaging story though and the production values were high, but I did wish it had more passion and energy in there.

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