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Tempestuousness Unfurled

Friday 13 April 2012

The Tempest is a new film from Julie Taymor, based on The Tempest by William Shakespeare. This adaptation is a mix of classical costuming and staging and language, with music that has what I’d class as rock opera–no actual opera, but music that would feel at home in one.

I *love* the play The Tempest. I also love classic and modern interpretations of Shakespeare, and off-the-wall unclassifiable ones (e.g., the Midsummer done by OSF a couple of years back).

I did not like this movie, and almost left in the first twenty minutes or so.

The mix of the classical staging, the (fairly lame) special effects, and the style of music that was at odds with the dialogue, made me think more of Clash of the Titans. The special effects were more what I saw twenty years ago in Excalibur; indeed, there was a (properly placed) fantastical feel about this Tempest. The music could have been fine, but set with the other elements, it was too jarring; jarring in a bad way, like a dislocated shoulder.

I also wasn’t crazy about the change from Prospero to Prospera; Helen Mirren gave a fine performance, but I think it tried to force in a feminist element that was unnecessary, and deleted the awkwardness of the lonely (male) magician with his adoptive daughter from the original.

Most of the other performances were also fine, although he actor playing Trinculo seemed to be going too much for a Johnny Depp/Jack Sparrow mood that was, again, jarring (who knowns, maybe Johnny Depp was really channelling Trinculo).

This is a full-on Hollywood production, or appears to be from the release through Miramax and Touchstone. My recommendation: give it a pass and watch any of the other excellent releases of Shakespeare’s work on film in the last twenty years.

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