Sunday, August 28, 2011

Vertical Viewing—Shakespeare's Tempest

James Henry Nixon's The Tempest

There's a big storm in the local forecast today (Hurricane Irene), which made me think of film adaptations of Shakespeare's The Tempest. You know the story... exiled magician Prospero and his daughter Miranda, a strange and remote island, a big storm (tempest!), a shipwreck, talk of marriage, a big confrontation of all the players, then forgiveness all around. In the end we learn about power, morality, betrayal, revenge, and most importantly, forgiveness. By the way, Prospero is a name derived from the Spanish word prospero, meaning happy, prosperous, and successful.

In wine tasting there is a term called vertical tasting—sampling one wine varietal from the same producer from several vintages. I coined the term Vertical Viewing to describe when I watch and compare several different versions of films. It's great to really get into the storyline and compare the acting and the strengths and weaknesses of each film. So let's explore Shakespeare's Tempest in this format, shall we?

IMDB shows dozens of adaptations of The Tempest, including TV productions, and (so far) I have seen 4 versions:

the 1956 version (called Forbidden Planet) with Leslie Neilson
the 1982 version with John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Susan Sarandon, and Molly Ringwald
the 1991 version (called Prospero's Books) with with John Gielgud
the 2010 version with Helen Mirren

There is a silent film of The Tempest in 1905 which I have never seen but hope to one day. Silent films are so overly dramatic and campy, but always entertaining—so much can be 'said' with facial expressions. In 1982 there was a modern day version of the the Tempest that took place on a Greek island with John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Susan Sarandon, and Molly Ringwald making her film debut as young Miranda. Raul Julia played the half man, half monster Caliban. Great cast and it was a fun film, but the most compelling Tempest I have seen is the 1991 Peter Greenaway's film called Prospero's Books, with Sir John Gielgud as Prospero. If you love Peter Greenaway films, as I do, you will not be disappointed with this one—it's wild! Another wild interpretation was Julie Taymor's (The genius behind Broadway's Lion King) 2010 version of in which she cast Helen Mirren as 'Prospera' (a nice gender twist on the role) and other notable names. The sets and costumes are brilliant! I admit that watched this film twice back-to-back—the second time with the Julie Taymor's voice over. And apparently the characters and settings in the 1956 sci-fi film, Forbidden Planet (starring Leslie Neilson and Anne Francis), was influenced by Shakespeare's Tempest... so how 'bout that? Whatever your film genre preference, get your Tempest groove going and rent one of these films.

Prospero and Miranda 
detail from George Romney's The Tempest engraving

Click on "vertical viewing" label below for other vertical viewing suggestions!
Or click to read my vertical viewing posts of 
Anna Karenina  Emma Love Affair 
A Christmas Carol, and Cyrano de Bergerac! 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Type your comments here. If you don't have any of the accounts listed, select "Name/URL" and just put your name. Thanks!