Shorts and summaries


Date: 2009
Posted by: Book MMS
Cast: Sofia Mesquita (Ophelia)
Credits: Made by Anaïs Dujardin, Chrystel Orsati, Mélodie Simon. Music by Julien Ruggiero, Amandine Glauser
Duration: 5.07

There is only one Ophelia, and she is drawn to water. Were this film and its protaognist given any other name we would probably see no Shakespearean connection at all, but with the name the film turns into a tantalising, mysterious gloss on Shakespeare’s character. A young woman, in distress at thoughts unspoken (there are no words), gets out of bed and wanders through a house littered with empty water bottles. She is desperate for water (what exactly for is not made clear) and eventually climbs into an empty bath, where she would appear to fall asleep. The camera tracks back, revealing a trail of the empty bottles.

This rough-edged film has a rawness to it, a sense of something personal that had to be expressed but equally needed to remain hidden (the comment function on Vimeo has been disabled for the video). It is also slightly absurd, so that the film teeters on the edge between sorrow and silliness. It is a striking example of the considerable number of Ophelia-themed videos out there, part of a larger online cult that had spread across forums, video and photo-sharing sites in which young women variously inhabit the character Ophelia. Alan R. Young’s essay and website Ophelia and Web 2.0 usefully analyses the phenomenon (including comments on the convenience of choosing bathtubs over rivers or ponds in which to recreate Ophelia’s end). He concludes:

If treated with something like the same intellectual respect now increasingly given to film and television appropriations, the Web 2.0 images and videos of Ophelia’s death will be seen, not as a mere interesting digression away from a Shakespeare-centric world, but as a valid contribution to an already large and ongoing commentary upon Ophelia and upon Gertrude’s speech describing her death.

Indeed this is no digression but rather an extension of Shakespeare’s art into our post-modern world (even if it is arguable whether the greater influence may be Millais rather than Shakespeare, as it is the image of the drowned Ophelia in Millais’ painting – midway between life and death, midway betwen air and water – that so often provides the template for these imaginings). As with online video Shakespeare overall, we see his plays spilling out naturally into the media of our times. If we are looking for Ophelia today, she will be as much on YouTube as she is on the stage or printed page.

Vimeo page
Ophelia and Web 2.0

Hamlet – the music video

Date: 2008
Posted by: larryc56
Cast: Laurence Olivier (Hamlet) and cast of 1948 film
Credits: Edited and performed by Laurence Campling, song by Adam McNaughton
Duration: 4.53

Here’s a classic parody with a YouTube twist. Scottish folksinger Adam McNaughton’s chirpy song ‘Oor Hamlet’ takes us through the main plot points of Hamlet, gently mocking its absurdities until the final pay-off line, “If you think that was boring, you should see the bloody play”. Video editor Laurence Campling plays and sings the song, delivered in a folky style (without the original’s Scottishisms) reminiscent of Martin Carthy (who does in fact include this song in his repertoire), which he has edited to clips from Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film. The earnestness of Olivier’s film cries out for sending up, and the video achieves the clever trick of pleasing both those who have suffered Hamlet in the classrom and those who love their Shakespeare and find that satire only increases that love.

YouTube page
Adam McNaugthon’s lyrics to Oor Hamlet
Adam McNaughton on Wikipedia
Laurence Campling’s website

Hamlet: Prince of Denmark

Date: 2007
Posted by: ghitchco
Cast: Hitchcock (Hamlet), Julie Jones (Death), Daniel Fachler (Claudius), Edgar Miles (Guard), Bret Walden (Guard), David Reimche (Ghost)
Credits: script: Hitchcock, Julie Jones, Daniel Fachler; cinematography: Daniel Fachler, Chris Gillen; editing: Hitchcock
Duration: 7.13

Here’s the sort of Shakespeare video that YouTube is there to encourage. The filmmaker has been driven to put together his vision of Hamlet (for his Shakespeare class), and with camera, a few friends, the obliging help of a local church and cemetery (in Augusta, Georgia), his CD collection and bags of enthusiasm, he puts together this distinctive take on the ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy. It is technically gauche and a bit silly in places, but it also shows real imagination and feeling for the play.

To begin with, the seven-minute film has a two-minute prologue, which in portentous dumbshow (and with ‘Carmina Burana’ blasting away over the top) shows Hamlet’s encounter with his dead father. The main title then follows, and we see that this is has been prelude to the main business, which is Hamlet delivering the soliloquy while dressed as a seminarian kneeling in church (the video is heavy on Catholic symbolism) and in then a cemetery trying to away from Death. And this is where the imaginative novelty comes in, because Death is a visible figure, female and dressed in white with white face mask. Death shares the words of the soliloquy, acting either as a prompter (“to be” says Hamlet; “or not to be” says Death) or as a voice in Hamlet’s mind, expressing the thoughts that he would rather not say. In the final line Death speaks the words, but it is Hamlet’s lips that mouth them.

It’s an intelligent conceit, thought out visually, and earnestly executed.

YouTube page
A droll teaser trailer for the Hamlet video

Two Gentlemen of Verona

Posted by: newzealand010
Cast: not given
Credits: not given
Duration: 2.59

Every picture tells a story – every picture has a story. And so one would love to know what the story is behind this particular jape. Four young people in someone’s back garden (in New Zealand?) enact a pared-down version of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. There is no speech (bar three words); instead the bare bones of plot and character are given through subtitles, making this a silent film of sorts. It’s all done in a mocking manner to the tune of assorted pop and dance tracks. As with so many such YouTube videos, the joke is one to be shared between the participants and their friends. What makes it unusual is that they took one of Shakespeare’s less familiar plays as their theme, and that they went about their task with such gusto. It all means something: perhaps an expression of democratic Shakespeare, that he can played anywhere, in any form, by anyone. All you need is a video camera – and a back garden.

YouTube page

Trickle down

Date: 2009
Posted by: El3mentaryPenguin
Cast: Siobhan O’Sullivan (Marilyn), Kyle Phillips (Stan), Lorrie McInnis (Marie), Bevin Green (Simone Athens), Taylor Ashcroft (Pamela), Ramon Balderas (Lucius), Lanie Goodrich (Apemantus), Ruben Figueroa (Archie Baldes)
Credits: Colour and Sound Moving Pictures Present. Directed by Josh Hensley, written by Lanie Goodrich and Josh Hensley,
Duration: 1.38, 6.24, and 7.55

This curious effort in three parts looks like a student effort to modernise their study play. It would be difficult to recognise this as an adaptation of Timon of Athens if one had not been prompted beforehand; indeed, it is not too easy to recognise its debt to Shakespeare’s play even if one knows its source of inspiration. Yet, as clumsy as it is (with dialogue drowned out by wind and passing traffic) and with action almost impossible to follow (part one seems incomplete), it is intriguingly earnest and mysteriously oblique. It describes itself as “a story of the rottenness of society. Everything comes down to the dirty dollar”. It is worth watching twice to see how the young filmmakers try to hang on to Shakespeare’s play, even though they fail.

Part 2

Part 3

YouTube page: Part 1
YouTube page: Part 2
YouTube page: Part 3

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?

YouTube page

Timon’s Friendship Adventure

Date: 2007
Posted by: MosesHouse
Credits: Directed by Max Littman, writer/executive producer Michael Weinreich, produced by Lisa Shapiro, director of photography Maximilian Schmige, production manager Annie Wilkes, art director Janet Franco, editor Adriana Blancarte, gaffer/grip/camera operator Matthew Ace Palanca, music Edvard Grieg (Gavin Gamboa-piano, Timothy Beutler – drums, Luke Webb – guitar)
Cast: Jason Davids Scott (Timon), Lauren Bruniges (Sherry), Maximilian Schwarzenbach (Samuel), Martha Mintz (Beatrice), Eric Hedlund (Raphael), Merlin Huff (Edgar (Servant no. 1), Nicholas Owen Tapis (Servant no. 2), Miguel Juanreichez (The Gardener)
Duration: 7.12

Bloody modern dress, modern silent film (including intertitles, piano music and black-and-white cinematography), based on Timon of Athens (though in practice it seems to owe rather more to Titus Andronicus). As the film’s website puts it:

Timon’s Friendship Adventure is the story of a jovial, plump, rich man. His main concern is the happiness of those around him – so much so that his generosity soon results in his own bankruptcy. When he asks his friends for loans he discovers that friendship can sometimes be a one-way street.

Made in 2007 and featured at various film festivals. Just a shame about the electric guitar.

YouTube page
Film’s website