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Cymbeline, the King of Britain, is angry that his daughter Imogen has chosen a poor (but worthy) man for her husband. So he banishes Posthumus, who goes to fight for Rome. Imogen (dressed as a boy) goes in search of her husband, who meanwhile has boasted to his pal Iachimo that Imogen would never betray him. And Iachimo's determined to prove him wrong.Written by
I opted, again, for what the powers that be on the internet call the most faithful adaptation of Shakespeare's Cymbeline, and that is certainly what I got when I watched Elijah Moshinsky's 1982 made for T.V. version. Part of BBC Shakespeare; Cymbeline brought together Richard Johnson, Hugh Thomas, and Helen Mirren to tell the tale of the angry King of Britain whose daughter has chosen to marry a poor man, below her class level. Reeling from this betrayal, King Cymbeline banishes his new son-in-law who eventually goes off to fight for Rome in the army. Exploring themes familiar in works of Shakespeare such as, appearance v. reality, youth and age, and forgiveness; Cymbeline is a quintessential work of the Bard, even if not one of his more famous pieces.
The daughter of King Cymbeline, of Britain; Imogen (Helen Mirren) neglects her father's wishes of marrying nobility and instead marries Posthumus (Michael Pennington). enraged at the feeling of disloyalty from his daughter, Cymbeline banishes Posthumus to Italy where he eventually fights for Rome. While in Italy, Posthumus meets a man named Cloten who believes that all women are just waiting to be seduced. Cloten wagers with Posthumus that he can travel to the British court and woo Imogen. Remaining steadfast to her husband, Imogen refuses Cloten's advancements. Realizing he will not successfully woo Imogen, Cloten hides in a trunk taken to Imogen's room one evening and watches her sleep, taking a bracelet from Posthumus on his way out of her chambers. Cloten then returns to Rome to brag about his seeming victory to Posthumus. Posthumus becomes enraged with his wife's alleged infidelity and sets orders to have her killed. Saved by a servant, Pisanio (John Kane) who believes in Imogen's innocence, he urges Imogen to dress as a man and infiltrate the Roman army in order to set things right with Posthumus. Imogen's task becomes more complicated when Posthumus, feeling regret, believing to be responsible for the death of his wife switches uniforms and begins fighting with the British army to try and redeem himself. Shakespeare crafts a story that is never quite what it seems to be, even to the end.
As noted, this presentation is part of a BBC Shakespeare series and looks very much like a play on film. It needs to be mentioned that, at times, this does not play to the advantage. Oftentimes the set restrictions of a television program leave the actors seeming cramped and restricted on-screen. Other times, however, the closeness played to the production's advantage. For instance, in the touching scene between Imogen and Posthumus before his leaving for Italy, their close proximity added to the love they shared. The farewell scene culminated in a beautiful shot of the newlyweds centered against a window. This shot was wonderful and provided a nice foreshadowing of the separation they would experience upon Posthumus' departure. What a treat to see a work of Helen Mirren's from the 80's. I'm really only familiar with her more recent work, and now I can safely say that she was as good an actress as she ever was in 1982. The film moved a bit slow for me, but the story is captivating and Mirren's acting will keep you hooked until the end.
Appearance v. reality, a theme Shakespeare explored throughout much of his work, was heavily relied upon in Cymbeline. This is most glaring in the beginning of the film. Even though the King comes off as an alpha male, attempting to thrust his will upon his daughter, he has relinquished all ruling power to the Queen. Throughout the film, the Queen gives off the appearance of siding with Imogen, yet all the while working against her. Of course, later in the film, Imogen dresses as a man attempting to give off the appearance of an Italian soldier, while in reality being a regal woman married to Posthumus. The ideas of youth v. age are also explored throughout the production. The King, living isolated from even his own family, forgets (or, rather, ignores) what it is like to fall in love, and is only thinking of class and tradition when encouraging his daughter to marry the right man. The movie really rests upon each character's ability to forgive. Imogen seeks forgiveness from Posthumus because she is innocent of what he believes her to have done. Posthumus also seeks forgiveness from Imogen for doubting her and trying to have her killed. Although not one of his more famous works, Cymbeline has a rich story that remains one of my personal favorites.
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