Shot on video to save money, Richard the Second shows many signs of a filmmaker dealing with inexperience and a low budget. The sound is inconsistent, sometimes being so muddy that it's hard to hear, sometimes disappearing when an actor turns his head to where there isn't a microphone. The editing has similar problems: there are way too many fades to black, one leading to about six seconds of silent blackness. One scene begins with a freeze frame; there are changes to slow motion out of nowhere. You can often see cuts between a wobbly hand-held and a dolly camera.
And yet if you can get beyond these superficial problems, there is much to enjoy about this film, even technically. The lighting is all natural- sunshine and firelight, and this turns out to be a bonus. In one scene Richard speaks in his cell as a beam of sunlight slices through the dark and illuminates part of his face- an awesome image. There are some great shots of sunrises over the ocean including the splendid ending.
The intelligent use of the location, an abandoned WW II fort near Boston, now overgrown, together with costuming everyone in Army Surplus fatigues (including a West Point cap for a crown), and supplying them with a broad array of weapons, gives the sense that this is some modern banana republic. It neatly ties the military coups of today in with the military coup engineered by the future Henry IV in the fifteenth century.
The screenplay is all Shakespeare, but ruthlessly cut to remove the blither that slows this play to a crawl. Even the most famous speech from the play (John of Gaunt's "this earth, this realm, this England") has been cut and the scene has much more energy for the lack of it. Within the corners of the Shakespeare play, the director finds a moving and even exciting story of the loss of authority by an indecisive monarch who appears to suffer from bipolar disorder, as it's now called. Richard's arrogance collapses into self-doubt as he questions the nature of kingship and his own personal destiny as a king.
Matte Osian's Richard is understated but moving and he gets good support almost all of the time, particularly from Kadina Delejalde's Isabel, Frank O'Donnell's Gaunt and Robert McCafferty's sinister Northumberland. Also very impressive in a small role was Neil Tadkin as Ross.
This is an interesting movie if you are not a Shakespeare buff and a fascinating one if you are.
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