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Midday Movies: Shakespeare On Film

The Best Movie Adaptations Of The Bard

Tom Lenk and Nathan Fillian star as inept officers in Joss Whedon's adaptatio...

Credit: Bellwether Pictures

Above: Tom Lenk and Nathan Fillian star as inept officers in Joss Whedon's adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing."

Kim Keeline, Board Member for The San Diego Shakespeare Society and Managing Editor for The Shakespeare Standard

Beth Accomando, KPBS Film Critic

Photo caption:

Photo credit: The Old Globe

The Globe's production of Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead."

If the Globe's Summer Shakespeare season has whet your appetite for the Bard then check out these film adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays.

In the Globe's clever production of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," a film crew with a steadicam follows Hamlet as he weaves in and out of Tom Stoppard's absurdist take on the Bard's classic play. So that provides a perfect lead in to a discussion of Shakespeare, film and diverse interpretations of the Bard's works.

Film and theater are two very different media. So when someone decides to bring a Shakespeare play to the screen, it does have to go through a real translation. Consider this one simple fact: when William Shakespeare wrote his plays in 17th century England, he had to create everything from castles to battles to moonlit nights with words on the mostly barren stage of the Globe Theater. But such descriptive language is not necessary in the highly visual medium of film where a single image easily conveys that the setting is night. In a film, these scene setting descriptions are not vital in the same way they were in Shakespeare's time so a smart filmmaker may cut them. Yet this sometimes causes outrage in purists who complain that films should be more faithful to the text.

Kim Keeline appreciates any film that brings people to Shakespeare. Keeline has a Phd. in English Literature with a focus on Shakespeare and his contemporaries. She is also a board member at the San Diego Shakespeare Society and the managing editor of The Shakespeare Standard. Her first introduction to Shakespeare on film came through the 1968 "Romeo and Juliet," in which young leads — Olivia Hussey (15 years old) and Leonard Whiting (17 years old)— were actually close to the ages of the characters in the play.

More recently, she was impressed by Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing" that's currently playing at Landmark's Hillcrest and La Jolla Village Theaters. Whedon shot the film in secret while working on "The Avengers."

Trailer: "Much Ado About Nothing"

Trailer: "Much Ado About Nothing"

Recommended Shakespeare Films:

"Henry V," either the Laurence Olivier 1944 version or Kenneth Branagh's 1989 one

"Macbeth," either Orson Welles 1948 version or Roman Polanski's 1971 one

"Much Ado About Nothing" (1993) directed by Kenneth Branagh

"Much Ado About Nothing" (2013) directed by Joss Whedon

"Richard III" 1995 version starring Ian McKellan

"Romeo and Juliet (1968) directed by Franco Zeffirelli

"Romeo + Juliet" (1996) directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes

Trailer: "Looking for Richard"

Trailer: "Looking for Richard"

Unconventional Shakespeare Films

"Looking for Richard," Al Pacino's documentary

"Shakespeare in Love," about Shakespeare writing his plays

"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," Tom Stoppard's absurdist take on "Hamlet"

"Ten Things I Hate About You," adaptation of "Taming of the Shrew"

"Scotland, PA," adaptation of "Macbeth"

"Chimes at Midnight," Orson Welles compilation of all the plays featuring Falstaff

"Throne of Blood," Akira Kurosawa's take on "Macbeth"


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