Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Twelfth Night: Or What You Will -- 1996

Twelfth Night: Or What You Will

Rated: PG for mild thematic elements
My Rating: 4 Stars

Imogen Stubbs
Toby Stephens
Helena Bonham Carter
Steven Mackintosh
Imelda Staunton
Mel Smith
Richard E. Grant
Ben Kingsley

My introduction to Shakespeare was this film. I do not know enough about Shakespeare to recommend this film on any other grounds than the fact that I found it enjoyable. Other than Shakespeare, this movie is wonderful.

It is a tale of two love stories and how they came about. It would seem that Shakespeare loved the unconventional. ;-)

Once upon a time in the land of Shakespeare's mind there were identical twins.Viola and Sebastian were their names and their hearts and minds were entwined deeply. When their ship sinks during a storm, they become separated and each think the other is lost. When Viola and some of her fellow shipmates wash ashore in Illyria, her heart is so burdened and heavy with grief that she feels she cannot live.

What saved her was coming upon a funeral. The sight of the beautiful Countess Olivia weeping over the grave of a dearly departed brother wrung the heart of our poor Viola, who's own grief and loss mirrored the Lady's. Her only thought was of how she could ease the suffering of this other sister who stood so broken and helpless with agony.

Then, she heard the rumors: Duke Orsino. He adored Countess Olivia with his heart, mind and soul. Had it been his heart alone in question, the two would have been married that very day. But the Countess Olivia was quite determined in her refusal of him. When Viola heard this, her mind was set in it's course. She would dress as her brother and serve the Duke. She would become his trusted friend and confident. She would be the go-between in the courtship of the Duke and Countess Olivia. She would bring her lady much joy and comfort. Viola had wonderful intentions.

What I Liked:
1: The story, of course. :-) It's beautiful and hilarious and so Shakespeare. 
2: The actors. They are all wonderful and true to their characters. So alive.
3: The humor is very laughable. 
4: The music. Ben Kingsley was amazing. 
5: The psychology of the film was well done and left the viewer scrambling to keep up.
6: The spirit of the film is dark and troubled... and it remains this way through the entire film, with little splashes of light. Well done! 

Things to Know:
1: When Viola is making her transformation, she dresses partly on screen. 
2: Some sensuality. It never goes beyond kissing but there are a couple implications.
3: Beware of statues in the garden... and someone reads Amour in the evening.
4: Cruelties done towards Malvolio just for the sake of cruelty. (Alternately horrifying and hilarious.)
5: This film is intense; full of twists and surprises. Watch with your mind open. 
6: There is drinking and quite a lot of drunkenness. 
7: As with all media, view with discretion. :-)

I had such a difficult time researching... so, when I found these reviews, I felt I needed to include them. They give interesting insight.

Do I recommend this film? :-) It is intense from the first moments. It grasps you and throws you into a world. It's dark and whimsical; realistic and magical; humorous and sad; hopeless and hope filled. Yes, I recommend it.


Hadassah's Corner said...

If there ever was movie... LOL! What a picture of love and pain and hope. :-)

Caroline said...

I had to make a power-point on Twelfth Night FAST and this site helped a lot. Thx so much! ;) and the movie....its better than work, i guess.

The Ponderer said...

Hannah, dear. :)

Caroline, thanks for the comment. I am always glad to hear that my reviews have helped in some way.

Rob in L.A. said...

“12th Night” is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. I bought this version on DVD to have a copy of the play in my video library because this, the Trevor Nunn version, was the most cinematic. I’d like to finally see a version of the play where you truly can believe that Viola and Sebastian are the same person, and not just suspend your disbelief because the two actors playing the parts don’t look that much alike. With the movies computer technology these days, maybe its time to make a film version where the same actress plays both Viola and her brother!

The Ponderer said...

I appreciated your comment, Rob. It's interesting hearing your perspective... especially since you have seen the play itself.

It will be interesting to see what Shakespearean movies are produced in the coming years. Wouldn't it be great if Tim Burton was inspired in that direction...