Explore Themes

Shakespeare on screen

(page 1 of 4)

(Part of an online exhibition created by OU Associate Lecturer Brendan Jackson in 2014)

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Clip 10: AA306 Hamlet
Duration: 00:01:15
Date: 2000

This theme looks at interpretations of Shakespeare plays on screen. In live theatre a production is constantly evolving over successive performances, but one of the many key differences of Shakespeare filmed for cinema or television is that the released version becomes ‘fixed’. Another difference is that the primacy of the visual experience generally (although not always!) results in far more severe cutting of the written text than is normally encountered in the theatre.

Filmed versions of Shakespeare plays are now standard among the prescribed ‘texts’ of Shakespeare modules, and we will now look at how this theme is treated in Open University DVDs. Of course, we must not forget that these materials are partners to written instruction and discussion in the module text-books and booklets.

The following excerpts are taken from an examination of filmed Shakespeare. In the clips I have chosen the main emphasis is on Orson Welles’s 1948 film of Macbeth, but in the full programme the examination of filmed versions of this tragedy proceeds to consideration of Roman Polanski’s 1970 film and includes an extended interview with Polanski. It also examines a more exotic treatment of the Macbeth text, Kurosawa’s Japanese Throne of Blood, produced in 1957. (Interestingly, the Japanese title of this film translates literally as ‘Spider’s Web Castle.’)

First of all, though, a brief but dramatic clip in which a couple of details from Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film of Hamlet are discussed (Clip 10). The point I have just made about the primacy of visual experience is well illustrated here.

View Clip 10

Shakespeare on screen (page 1 of 4)