Month: July 2008

The Passenger

Date: 2006
Posted by: johnrobinhartel
Credits: Directed and photographed by John Robin Hartel, written by Trevor Emmett and Kyle Farrell, edited by John Robin Hartel and Kyle Farrell, produced by Kyle Farrell and Trevor Emmett, for the Filme Company
Cast: Camron Crooks (Ulysses), Trevor Emmett (Thersites), James Warmles (Paris), Brandon Smith (himself), Rich Ward (Troilus), Adi Beged-Dov (Cressida), Travis (Pandera), Kyle Farrell (Diomedes), Jamen Lee (Hector), Mike Johnson (Achilles), The Clerk (The Clerk)
Duration: 5.55

This is a truly odd interpretation of of Shakespeare’s oddest play. Set among American small town slacker youth, it start with two young men in a car, one silent, the other smoking heavily while complaining of the damage cigarette smoke can do to children. They stop outside a store where two more young men are standing. The man smoking gets out of the car and berates the two for smoking themselves (“babykillers”). A young man and woman come out of the store as he goes in. The couple speak lovingly to each other, then she leave him to get in a car, where a young man takes some money from her. Another man joins them in the car, and she pats him on the leg, while the man she has left looks on ruefully. Elsewhere a man is trying to read a map, and another one offers to help him. The latter then talks to one of the men standing outside the store, whom he criticises for upsetting their mother. A thief runs out of the store and the man who helped the map-reader gives chase. He stops the thief and berates him, only to be struck down by the thief when he turns his back.

What has all this to do with Troilus and Cressida? The filmmaker has this to say on the YouTube comments:

Trevor explained the plot of the play to me, then we worked out a script in about an hour. When he handed it in though (it was a final for his Shakespeare class, I believe) everyone in the class was quickly pointing out which characters in the film represented which characters in the play, so it worked for its purpose.

Since there is no way anyone (outside of that English class, perhaps) would recognise this drama as being derived from Shakespeare’s play without prompting, our only clues are the cast list, which we are informed shows the players in order of appearance. So, the two men in the car are Ulysses and Thersites, with Ulysses the one with the smoking obsession. The two outside the store are Paris (in a green shirt) and the unquestionably unShakespearean Brandon Smith. The couple who come out of the store are Troilus and Cressida. The man in the car is Pandera (i.e. Pandarus), and they are joined in the car by Diomedes. The map reader is probably unidentified, as it must be Hector who helps him and Achilles whom Hector chases and who then turns on him at the end. Obvious, really.

Is it any good? That depends on what you are looking for. Viewed without prior knowledge of intentions, it’s a rough, puzzling short film that doesn’t go anywhere. But the puzzle’s the thing. It’s being able – or not being able – to see Shakespeare’s own odd work encoded in the film’s off-hand conceit that challenges the viewer and makes us look again. So, is Thersites the passenger?

Links
YouTube page

Apemantus and Timon

Date: 2007
Posted by: peterbruce01
Credits: Filmed by Peter Bruce, for the Balmain Picture Company
Cast: Not named
Duration: 1.47

This is an extract from an Australian ‘grunge’ version of Timon of Athens, information on which is hard to find. As an extract alone, it is startling and fresh. The sequence shows the confrontation between the caustic Apemantus and Timon’ from Act 1 Scene 1 (“Thou art proud, Apemantus.” “Of nothing so much as that I am not like Timon.”), rawly filmed on miniDV in the bright sunshine of Sydney, making the confrontation look like an everyday street brawl. The realism is intriguingly counterpointed by the use of on-screen text relaying the dialogue.

Such immediacy and roughness of technique might prove a little wearing over the course of an entire film/play, but that’s an unfair judgement without having seen the thing. There is also a ‘preview’ of sorts with a range of clips from the full work (entitled Timon of Athens) indicating something original, rough-hewn and exciting.

Date: 2007
Posted by: peterbruce01
Credits: Filmed by Peter Bruce, for the Balmain Picture Company
Cast: Not named
Duration: 1.23

Links
Apemantus and Timon YouTube page
Timon of Athens Preview YouTube page

Hamlet in 60 Seconds

Date: 2008
Posted by: ryanspeaks2007 (and now by <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpOtKMeGyzkhtDpbR9IBX3Q"TheWasa11)
Credits: Created by ryanspeaks2007
Duration: 1.00

Speeded-up or reduced Shakespeare has been done so often we may have forgotten what the joke was for. Is it a wish to hold up to ridicule that which the prevailing culture holds to be sacrosanct? Does it demonstrate that our familiarity with the plays is such that they need only minimal reference to trigger an understanding? Or is Shakespeare just innately funny, especially when he wants to be serious?

Whichever of these, the joke too often falls flat. Until, that is, someone does it well, as they do here. This is an unapologetically crude (in execution) cartoon that whizzes us through the salient points of Hamlet, making us laugh at just how much it manages to cram into those sixty seconds, making its point all the more by its division of the action into scenes. It also has its own nonsense way with words (“The King’s a thing with a ring on a string”). Look out for the timer in the bottom-left corner, to ensure that the video remains as good as its word. The perfect last-minute revision text.

Links
YouTube page

The Office Othello

Date: 2007
Posted by: smathew3344
Credits: Filmed by Stephen Mathew
Cast: Not named
Duration: 10.52

Just how many American high schools are out there where the English teacher has set the class the task of producing a video parody of the Shakespeare play they are studying using some popular culture reference or other? From the evidence of YouTube, there are hundreds. Most are wearisome and would seem to have little instructional value; a handful amuse or intrigue; just one or two are exceptional. The Office Othello comes under the intriguing category – a moderately skilful but ultimately quite peculiar attempt to marry the style of the television series The Office to Shakespeare’s play. The effort is praiseworthy for the accuracy of some of the parody, and for not slavishly following the plot line of the play. But the light tone sits uneasily with jealousy and having Pam (the Desdemona figure) have her throat cut with a pair of office scissors. So, more marks for inspiration than execution.

The same filmmaker has also made Crouching Tiger, Hidden Macbeth, a juvenile romp redeemed somewhat by its title and the comic use of dubbing.

Links
YouTube page

Richard of Gloucester

Date: 2008
Posted by: weatheringdaleson
Credits: Created by Brian Cassidy
Cast: Brian Cassidy (Richard)
Duration: 3.54

An eerie rendition of Richard, Duke of Gloucester’s speech beginning “Ay, Edward will use women honourably” from Henry VI Part 3 (Act 3 Scene 2), where he declares his villainy (“Why, I can smile, and murder while I smile”). The reading itself is ordinary enough, but what makes it stand out is the lighting, so all is in black except a white light marking out the performer’s face, and the confessional closeness of that face to the camera – a familar YouTube Shakespeare convention. The result is like being made uncomfortable witness to a modern serial killer’s intentions, something that the blandness of the performance accentuates.

Links
YouTube page

To Be Or Not To Be

Date: 2006
Posted by: gr8tbigtreehugger
Credits: Created by gr8tbigtreehugger. A HatHead Production
Cast: Kenneth Brannagh [sic] (Hamlet)
Duration: 3.17

Second Life-style graphics characterise this peculiar, unearthly rendition of the ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy from Hamlet (Act 3 Scene 1). A head on a pedestal utters the deathless words in a whisper as the ‘camera’ swoops about and monks intone in the background. Not much of an intelligible expression passes over the face until it breaks into a goofy grin at the words, “Soft you now! The fair Ophelia!”. The animation uses 3D animation software from www.coolclones.com, and it seems to be a case of the software having driven the inspiration for the work. Some day (when virtual reality takes over entirely) everything will look like this.

Links
YouTube page

William Shakespeare

Date: 2006
Posted by: srowan
Credits: Created by Alex Mueller and Scott Rowan. A Row 1 Production
Cast: Scott Rowan (William Shakespeare), Jenna Johnson (Anne Hathaway), Callie Parks (Francis Bacon, Actress), Griffin Ransdell (Bully no. 1, Messenger), Alex Mueller (Bully no. 2, Actor), Bill Rowan (Papa Shakespeare), Sandy Rowan (School Teacher), random people (extras)
Duration: 11.33

We first encounter William Shakespeare in a modern day American small town setting. He is sitting on a bench, when a quill feather flutters down beside him. He tells his life story to a girl sitting on the next door bench, who initially ignores him. We learn that as a child he loved to read, and learned about his ancestor who fought in the Wars of the Roses (“I don’t know why anyone would want flowers that bad”). Encouraged by his sweetheart Anne Hathaway, William learns to write and write and write. He joins the Lord Chamberlain’s men acting troupe and marries Anne. Then his father dies, and William writes a play inspired by his father, which he will call Hamlet (named after his father’s favourite meal of ham omelettes). The girl on the bench advises him to use some words he had just uttered (“Alas, poor York peppermint…”) in his play. Her name is Francis [sic] Bacon.

This is a remarkably accomplished 11-minute amateur parody of Forest Gump, telling instead the life of William Shakespeare. The music from the film helps, and it’s not a difficult film to parody, but such care has gone into recrafting shots from the original and duplicating its tone. It doesn’t tell us much about Shakespeare, except maybe to hint that his life for us now is, much like Forest Gump’s, little more than a blank onto which we imprint our own expectations of a national figure.

Links
YouTube page