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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.
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.
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.
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.
*** 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.
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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