Shakespeare's comedy of gender confusion, in which a girl disguises herself as a man to be near the count she adores, only to be pursued by the woman he loves.Shakespeare's comedy of gender confusion, in which a girl disguises herself as a man to be near the count she adores, only to be pursued by the woman he loves.Shakespeare's comedy of gender confusion, in which a girl disguises herself as a man to be near the count she adores, only to be pursued by the woman he loves.
Unfortunately, director Nunn will not allow a hilarious slapstick comedy to just be a hilarious slapstick comedy. Apparently he succumbed to the notion that everything Shakespearean has somehow to seem profound, which in this case results in an attempt to transfer this light, sparkling comedy, full of deliberately overdrawn characters and silly lines and pratfalls, into a brooding tragedy in which pompous ass Malvolio acts as if he were, or imagined himself to be, Hamlet caught in the wrong play, while clown Feste is misanthropic to the point of sadism. There is no suggestion of comic timing anywhere in this film!
It appears that once Nunn decided to insist on a modern-dress version, he adopted as his mentor the let's-portray-the-messed-up-dysfunctional-household school. This is stupid. A better mentor would have been a closer modern equivalent of what Shakespeare was doing in this play. Something like I Love Lucy or Amos 'n' Andy or The Honeymooners, in other words.
One thing that entirely puzzles me is: why the devil didn't Nunn exploit the particular advantages of the cinema in depicting this gender-bender story of a girl impersonating a look-alike boy? Why in sam hill didn't Nunn have a male actor who is skilled at female impersonation, or an actress skilled at impersonating males, play both roles on a split screen? (See, for the sort of impersonation I refer to, Vanessa Redgrave as the trans-sexual tennis player in Second Serve.) In other words: Why transform a stage play into a film at all, if you're not going to put the advantages of the cinema, as opposed to those of the stage, to work? Nunn's treatment of this play is not only a mangled interpretation, it's unimaginative.
Ben Kingsley is the only performer who does very much with his part, and what he does he does very well. His acting creates a very interesting character, and his interpretation of Feste is certainly consistent, but it receives no support whatsoever from the text.
- Feb 21, 2004