24 March 2013

Twelfth Night 1996

Twelfth Night (1996)
  • Director: Trevor Nunn
  • Based on Book: Shakespeare
  • Cast: Imogen Stubbs, Helena Bonham-Carter, Nicholas Farrell, Ben Kingsley, Nigel Hawthorne, Imelda Staunton, Mel Smith, Toby Stephens, Richard E. Grant
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Imogen Stubbs – Sense and Sensibility
    • Helena Bonham-Carter –I know her films, here are a few favorites: Harry Potter, Sweeney Todd, The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland, Frankenstein, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Howards End
    • Nicholas Farrell: Hamlet, In the Bleak Midwinter, Sex Chips and Rock’n’Roll, Driving Lessons
    • Ben Kingsley – Shutter Island, Gandhi, House of Sand and Fog, Schindler’s List, Dave
    • Nigel Hawthorne: Amistad, Richard III, The Madness of King George, Gandhi, The Tempest, Holocaust
    • Imelda Staunton – Harry Potter, Vera Drake, Shakespeare in Love, Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, Taking Woodstock, Freedom Writers, David Copperfield, Sense and Sensibility, Peter’s Friends
    • Richard E. Grant – Dracula, Withnail and I, Wah-Wah, Me Myself and Kubrick, Gosford Park, Keep the Aspidistras Flying, Cold Lazarus
  • Why bought: Shakespeare
  • Seen: four or five times. Now: December 16, 2012

Trevor Nunn is justifiably known as a Shakespeare expert.  He brings vitality and imagination to his productions generally without sacrificing any of Shakespeare’s genius.  But there are always problems, I’ve found.  So I’ll start with them.
He adds scenes that Shakespeare doesn’t have, once at the beginning with the storm that sank the ship and caused the twins to lose each other. This was accompanied by a fake Shakespeare narration.  In the middle of the film Antonio is shown being chased through town and captured by the soldiers.  Shakespeare didn’t need these scenes. Neither do we.
The movie is set at the turn of the century and though Downton Abbey didn’t yet exist when Nunn made Twelfth Night I can’t help but see butler Carson in Hawthorne’s Malvolio and Staunton’s Maria as Mrs. Hughes.
But the main problem is that they mumble. Especially in the beginning I can’t hear what they say and the camera jumps around from setting to setting and if I didn’t know the story inside and out I wouldn’t have a clue what was going on.
But just when I ask myself why I like this movie so much something happens. The subtlety of expression, the twitch of an eyebrow, the slight lilt of a phrase that only great actors can achieve - are achieved.  The underlying melancholy and deep sadness in the play swirl like a fog into the bright hilarity. The reunion of the lost twins and the confusion of the witnesses is a masterly mix of gripping emotion and comedy.  Helena Bonham-Carter is unequalled in facial expressions and in this scene she is absolutely perfect.  She is, in the best meaning of the word, the star of this play.  Imogen Stubbs manages to carry off the difficult role of Viola/Cesario more convincingly than most. Nigel Hawthorne is a very good Malvolio (it’s not his fault Downton Abbey showed up twenty years later) and Ben Kingsley is a sensitive and kind and funny Feste, just as Shakespeare wrote him.  And dopey Orsino, one of Shakespeare’s many stupid romantic men, is very well done by Maggie Smith’s son Toby Stephens.
In other words, Trevor Nunn does it again.  He pulls it off.

7 ½ * of 10

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