Saturday, May 30, 2009

Star Trek and Sonnet 29

“The Measure of a Man.” By Melinda M. Snodgrass. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, and Brent Spiner. Dir. Robert Scheerer. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2, episode 9. Syndicated television. 13 February 1989. DVD. Paramount, 2002.
Not long after the last quotation from a Shakespeare sonnet, The Next Generation returned with another. This time, the opening lines of Sonnet 29 give the characters the opportunity to contemplate the piece of work that is a man.

The question in this episode is whether Data, an android, is the property of Star Fleet or whether he has autonomy. The character who reads the sonnet wants to take him apart to learn more about him; not unreasonable, Data has objected and announced his resignation from Star Fleet.

But, once again, that's the surface level of the use of the sonnet here. Data, in attempting to become human, allows the other characters (and, of course, the audience) to think about what it means to be human. The rest of the sonnet (see below) is one way to answer that question.

video
XXIX.

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
     For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
     That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Star Trek and Sonnet 18

“The Schizoid Man.” By Tracy Torme and Gene Roddenberry. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, and Brent Spiner. Dir. Les Landau. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 2, episode 6. Syndicated television. 23 January 1989. DVD. Paramount, 2002.
Shakespeare's sonnets come up with surprising frequency in Star Trek episodes. Captain Kirk was forced to recite Sonnet 57; here, Captain Picard freely relates the closing couplet of Sonnet 18. In the episode, he does so to indicate the realization he's come to—that someone else's brain has been downloaded into Data's head (So long lives Data's head, it will give life to that second brain). Yeah, I know. Weird.

But that's only the ostensible meaning of the couplet in this context. The more significant part (and the part that's developing into an overarching thesis about Star Trek's Shakespeare use) is that Shakespeare's words allow humanity the opportunity to understand themselves better. In this imaginary, science fiction context, "So long lives this" is wrapped up in the futuristic setting. Shakespeare's words have lived this long; humanity will live this long, too.

Here's the clip; the full sonnet follows it.

video
XVIII.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

One more Shakespeare Quote from a Q Episode

“Hide & Q.” By C. J. Holland and Gene Roddenberry. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Denise Crosby, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton, and John de Lancie. Dir. Cliff Bole. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 1, episode 10. Syndicated television. 23 November 1987. DVD. Paramount, 2002.
They always seem to quote from Shakespeare when Q shows up. I'm not entirely sure why, but I think it may have to do with the idea that Q seeks to understand human nature—and who has more to say about the emotions and actions of human beings than Shakespeare?

At the end of "Hide and Q," an episode in which Picard and Q exchange Shakespeare quotes (for which, q.v.), Data gives us a brief quote from Polonius as a way of indicating why the crew wants to be who they are:


Polonius' speech to Laertes is awfully long-winded, but it concludes with those eminently-quotable lines—and the ones that must follow as the night the day: "And it must follow as the night the day / Thou canst not then be false to any man" (I.iii.79-80). Apparently, that bit of Polonius' advice is as applicable far in the future as it was in the past.

Bonus! Video clip of this Shakespeare quote!

video


Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Animated Star Trek, Animated Shakespeare

“How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth.” By Russell Bates and David Wise. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, and George Takei. Dir. Bill Reed. Star Trek: The Animated Series. Season 2, episode 5. NBC. 5 October 1974. DVD. Paramount, 2006.
We leave behind The Original Series for the time being, planning to return to it later to examine a few plot similarities between it and various Shakespeare plays.

Our next stop is at a place I didn’t even know existed—at least, not until I spotted it at our local library about two years ago: Star Trek: The Animated Series!

The only Shakespeare reference that I noticed in the series is both a title reference and a quote. The episode itself is mainly forgettable. An ancient Aztec alien returns to earth to see how his children are getting along, and he finds that they don’t need him anymore. Hence the aptness of the title and the quote. Because the reference is so brief, I’m not including a clip; however, I offer these subtitled screen shots for your edification:



Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia.

Click below to purchase the series from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Star Trek Sonnet 57

“Plato’s Stepchildren.” By Meyer Dolinsky. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, George Takei, Michael Dunn, Barbara Babcock, Liam Sullivan, Ted Scott, Derek Partridge, and William Blackburn. Dir. David Alexander. Star Trek. Season 3, episode 10. NBC. 22 November 1968. DVD. Paramount, 2008.
Late in its run, The Original Series turned to the sonnets, giving inspiration and helpful hints to Poetry Slam Participants the world over (the trick is to crawl on your stomach, acting as if every word is being forced from your body against your will).

That's what's happening to Captain Kirk, anyway. The bad guy wants to be entertained, and he's able to force Kirk to recite Shakespeare sonnets—or, to be precise, at least Sonnet 57. Take a look at that section first (other sections will be inserted below).

video

Here's the sonnet in question:
LVII.

Being your slave, what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend,
Nor services to do, till you require.
Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour
When you have bid your servant once adieu;
Nor dare I question with my jealous thought
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought
Save, where you are how happy you make those.
So true a fool is love that in your will,
Though you do any thing, he thinks no ill.
Before you complain that Kirk's delivery isn't absolutely top-notch, look at the act he's following:

video

Yep, that's Mr. Spock, smiling! He hasn't smiled since the pilot episode! And what's that he's saying / reciting (together with Captain Kirk)?
I'm Tweedledee; he's Tweedledum:
Two spacemen marching to a drum.
We slith among the mimsey toves
And gyre among the borogoves.
My goodness. That's even worse than the "Very bad poetry" that Mr. Spock critiqued when they met the witches! Even a crawling, forced delivery of Sonnet 57 will be better than that!

But, I suppose, there is some interest in Kirk's choice of sonnet (or is it the bad guy's choice?): "Being your slave" catches up the idea of how foolish it is to think that, whatever the beloved may do, it cannot be ill. Perhaps there's something, too, in the fact that Kirk doesn't complete the quatrain, breaking off before the final word. But maybe that's just Dr. McCoy's interruption.

For those of you who would like to see the complete sequence, here are the two parts put back together:

video

Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Shakespeare and Star Trek: The Revenge of the Bard!

“Catspaw.” By Robert Bloch. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, George Takei, Antoinette Bower, Theo Marcuse, Michael Barrier, and Eddie Paskey. Dir. Joseph Pevney. Star Trek. Season 2, episode 7. NBC. 27 October 1967. DVD. Paramount, 2008.
Some time ago, Bardfilm had a series of posts on the integration of Shakespeare and Star Trek. I attempted to be complete, but I soon discovered a number of gaps in my coverage. I apologize.

Fortunately, I intend to fill those gaps with another series of posts—a series that will culminate in one gigantic post containing The Complete Works of Shakespeare in Star Trek!

For the record, I learned of some of these gaps from other lists (for example, this one), but many of these are my own discoveries.

The earliest gap to fill (chronologically-speaking) is a possible allusion to Macbeth (rather than a direct reference to any play) in The Original Series. Here, Bones, Spock, and Kirk have landed on The Planet of the Scary Things, and they (like Macbeth and Banquo) are met by three witches:

video

As I said, it's much more of an allusion than a quotation, but I think there's a connection that involves more than just the number of witches. One thing is the "Very bad poetry" noted by Mr. Spock.

The witches, in addition to saying "Go back . . . remember the curse" any other scary things, close with these lines:
"Winds shall rise, and fog descend.
So leave here all or meet your end.
Mr. Spock's assessment isn't far off. And that's the key to connecting this with Macbeth. There are segments of "very bad poetry" in Shakespeare's play—mostly given to the witches, and mostly not written by Shakespeare. For example, this speech Hecate makes is frequently said to be a non-Shakespearean interpolation:
                          How did you dare
To trade and traffic with Macbeth
In riddles and affairs of death;
And I, the mistress of your charms,
The close contriver of all harms,
Was never call'd to bear my part,
Or show the glory of our art?
                       —III.v.4-10
The Star Trek witches' bad couplet is quite as bad as any one of these!

Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Great River Shakespeare Festival—Opening in One Month!

Love's Labour's Lost. Dir. Paul Mason Barnes. Perf. Doug Scholz-Carlson, Chris Mixon, Andrew Carlson, Brian Frederick, Christopher Gerson, Evan Fuller, Tarah Flanagan, Shanara Gabrielle, Katy Mazzola, Nikki Rodenburg, Michael Fitzpatrick, David Rudi Utter, Eva Balastrieri, Jeremy van Meter, Jonathan Gillard Daly, David Coral, Nick Demeris, Katie Bowler, Moira Marek, Duncan Halleck, Theo Morgan, Ceci Bernard, Chris Bernard, and Mitchell Essar. Great River Shakespeare Festival. Winona, Minnesota. 2009.
The Tempest. Dir. Alec Wild. Perf. Eva Balistrieri, Andrew Carlson, David Coral, Nick Demeris, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Michael Fitzpatrick, Tarah Flanagan, Brian David Frederick, Evan Fuller, Shanara Gabrielle, Christopher Gerson, Kate Mazzola, Chris Mixon, Doug Scholz-Carlson, Nicole Rodenburg, David Rudi Utter, Jeremy van Meter, and Tessa Wild. Great River Shakespeare Festival. Winona, Minnesota. 2009.

Be certain to include a trip to Winona, Minnesota in your summer plans, and make sure that your trip occurs between Friday, June 26 and Sunday, July 26. That month—that royal month of kings, that scepter'd month, that other Eden, demi-paradise, that blessed month—that month is the month of the Great River Shakespeare Festival. Every time we've gone (this will be, I believe, our third time), we've been stunned by the magnificence of the productions.  

This year, they're giving us The Tempest and Love's Labour's Lost.  I'm not sure who's playing in each—my cast list above is more hopeful than anything else (though I'll let you know who's playing what—and who's directing what—when I know it myself)—but I'm certain that this year's season will be, once again, a thing of beauty and a joy forever.  Or at least for that month.

Head to the GRSF website to get your tickets!  
Links: The Great River Shakespeare Festival.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Shakespeare-Related Young Adult Fiction

Broach, Elise. Shakespeare's Secret. New York: Square Fish, 2007.
Although I'm still partial to King of Shadows (for which, q.v.), I recently read a good Shakespeare-related novel for young adults. If you're an anti-Stratfordian, you'll like it. It's very heavy on the Oxfordian side. Of course, if you're an Oxfordian, you probably don't need any more encouragement, and you really ought to take a very careful look at the logic of your argument and the data available that will undermine your position.

But Bardfilm digresses. 

Apart from the usual presentation of the anti-Stratfordian position (which itself is erroneous, illogical, and irrational in places), Shakespeare's Secret is very well written. A diamond missing from a sixteenth-century broach (was it stolen by someone who knew it was there . . . or by its own owner, who collected the insurance money?) is at the center of this adventure story. Its protagonist is named Hero (her older sister is named Beatrice), and her father is a amiable Shakespeare scholar (though one who has imbibed too much of the Oxfordian position). It's a good book.

However, I can't recommend it without reservation—because a much better book is readily-available. Fortunately, it's by the same author.

Broach, Elsie. Masterpiece. Illus. Kelly Murphy. New York: Henry Holt, 2008.
Masterpiece is brilliant. It's not Shakespeare-related, but it should be recognized as marvelous nonetheless. It's the story of a boy and a beetle, and the beetle turns out to be a natural genius in pen-and-ink sketches. Eventually, the boy (they think he's doing the drawing) is commissioned to forge a drawing by Albrecht Dürer so that the art thieves can steal it instead of the genuine drawing. If I say any more, I'll give away some marvelous things. You should read this book at least—and you should give it to everyone you know, especially those with children. Even those as young as six or seven will be delighted to have you read either of these books out loud.

Although you may need to temper Shakespeare's Secret with a few lectures on the virtues of the Stratfordian position; the mantra "William Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare" is a good starting place.
Click below to purchase the books from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Friday, May 22, 2009

In conclusion, another kind of Macbeth

Scotland, PA. Dir. Billy Morrissette. Perf. James LeGros, Maura Tierney, and Christopher Walken. 2001. DVD. Sundance, 2005.
We at Bardfilm have spent a considerable amount of time studying the dagger speech in a number of different productions—both adaptations and derivatives. Before we move on to a new subject, let's take a brief look at another derivative version of Macbeth.

In the darkly-comic Scotland, PA, the plot is no longer about taking over a kingdom. Instead, it's about taking over a fast-food restaurant. The reduction of the prize (even though there's potential for the burger joint to grow into an earth-striding colossus) is part of the comedy, but there are other points. Observe the trailer for the film:

video

I'm afraid there's not really an equivalent to the dagger speech itself, but the film, on the whole, is successful.

The film does have a considerable amount of uncouth language (or, at least, language that is less-than-couth), and a fair amount of violence. Forewarned is forearmed!

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Slings and Arrows: The Dagger Speech

“Fallow Time.” By Susan Coyne and Bob Martin. Dir. Peter Wellington. Perf. Martha Burns, Paul Gross, Don McKellar, Mark McKinney, Oliver Dennis, Susan Coyne, Stephen Ouimette, Catherine Fitch, and Geraint Wyn Davies. Slings and Arrows. Season 3, episode 2. Movie Central: Canada. 31 July 2006. DVD. Acorn Media, 2006-2007.
I'm fairly certain that, no matter how much I write, I will be unable to say enough good things about Slings and Arrows. It's fabulous.

The dagger speech in it is extraordinarily interesting because of its meta-theatrical nature. The season is about a group of players putting on a Macbeth. When those players get their Macbeth, they start a read-through, but their Macbeth wants to do the dagger speech first—as a way of warding of the Makkers curse. When Macbeth sees the dagger, there's no dagger there—which is to be expected. But when he draws his real dagger to compare it to the imagined one, there's no dagger there, either! Of course the imagined dagger has a form as palpable as that which now he draws—they're both imaginary! Wow.

video

Links: Episode List at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the series from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Shakespeare Retold's Dagger Speech

Macbeth. Shakespeare Retold. Dir. Mark Brozel. Perf. James McAvoy, Keeley Hawes, and Richard Armitage. 2005. DVD. BBC, 2007.
If Kurosawa's dagger speech is entirely internalized, so is the version in the Shakespeare Retold Macbeth.

But this version (set in a restaurant of the highest tone) shows less of an internal debate and more of a cold-blooded determination:

video

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the entire Shakespeare Retold set
(of which this is only one out of four films)
from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Kurosawa's Dagger Speech

Throne of Blood [Kumonosu jô (The Castle of the Spider’s Web)]. Dir. Akira Kurosawa. Perf. Isuzu Yamada and Toshirô Mifune. 1957. DVD. Criterion, 2003.

If you think that Diana Rigg's Regan is bone-chilling, try Asaji, the Lady Macbeth analogue in Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. Her slow departure into the darkness and her return with the drugged wine to give the soldiers is thrilling ("thrilling" in its older, more spine-tingling sense).

The dagger speech itself is also astonishing. Actually, "speech" is something of a misnomer. The sense of the speech is completely internalized! Washizu (the Macbeth analogue) has to express it all without saying a word. Watch:

video

And the entire film is as brilliant—as stunning—as flabbergasting as that scene. If, somehow, you've missed it, watch the rest at once. At once!

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Monday, May 18, 2009

Australian Macbeth

Macbeth. Dir. Geoffrey Wright. Perf. Sam Worthington and Victoria Hill. 2006. DVD. Starz / Anchor Bay, 2007.
The main problem with Geoffrey's Wright's version of Macbeth isn't that it's uninteresting—there are many points of interest in it. And it's not that Sam Worthington's Macbeth lacks charisma. But the film still isn't successful.

Perhaps it's the altered setting. It's set in an Australian drug world—and its grittiness is fine for both the horrors of the battlefield and the evil of Macbeth himeself, but something is lost in the transition. Do we care that the "good" drug lord is bumped off and replaced by the "bad" drug lord? 

Perhaps it's the witches, who are teenage seductresses who show up naked in Macbeth's kitchen. Perhaps it's just the deep despair of a film where no one seems to believe in what they're fighting for.

But the dagger speech has a fascinating take on it! Instead of a CGI dagger (à la Polanski) or no dagger at all (après la façon de many others), this Macbeth sees a perfectly ordinary image and ascribes dagger-like characteristics to it.

Of course, people talking about knives in Australian accents brings another cultural artifact immediately to mind—it's toward the end of the clip below:

video

The information about the other cultural artifact appears at the end of this post.

And, in case you were wondering how Birnam Wood can come to Dunsinane in a modern Australia, here's the answer:

Birnam Timber!  Ha, ha!  The giant logging truck crashes right through the gates of the drug lord's mansion!

Finally, a small bonus image, complete with altered, Shakespearean dialogue:
That's not a dagger that I see before me.
That's a dagger that I see before me!

Crocodile Dundee. Dir. Peter Faiman. Perf. Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski. 1986. DVD. Paramount, 2007.

Links: Wright's Macbeth at IMDB. Crocodile Dundee at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the films from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Saturday, May 16, 2009

The BBC's Dagger Speech

Macbeth. Dir. Jack Gold. Perf. Nicol Williamson and Jane Lapotaire. 1983. DVD. Ambrose, 2001.
Two more direct versions of Macbeth (the next less direct than this) need to be addressed before we can move on to additional derivative versions. The first is the BBC's relatively conservative production.

The BBC's Complete Shakespeare gets mocked fairly often in Shakespeare and film circles—and some productions deserve that mockery. One has only to think of John Cleese—otherwise brilliant—as Petruchio to understand that. However, this production is less deserving of mockery than others. For one thing, its Lady Macbeth is really stunning—particularly in the "Come, you spirits" speech.

Their Macbeth is also interesting. In this dagger speech, we once again have an absent dagger—but, this time, Macbeth sees what isn't there by looking directly as us! Brrrr! Chilling. This Macbeth also seems eager to clutch the dagger, rather than scared (as in other productions). And there's more to say, but I'm dashing off. Enjoy!

video

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bogdanov's Macbeth

Macbeth. Dir. Michael Bogdanov. Perf. Sean Pertwee and Greta Scacchi. 1998. DVD. Home Vision Entertainment, 1998.
Originally broadcast in the UK, Bogdanov's Macbeth is a straightforward performance. The only particularly exciting thing about it is that it's placed in a modernized setting. Yet it's not without its interest. In the dagger speech, Sean Pertwee gives us a suffiiently awed Macbeth, and Bogdanov's decisions about voiceovers are intriguing:

video

There are other points of interest in the film, including Bogdanov's use of the witches and his use of special effects (especially as they relate to the witches). The witches are homeless women who have the ability to scatter themselves to the wind in the traditional Saturday-morning-movie fashion. But we'll have to save that for another time.
Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Monday, May 11, 2009

Orson Welles' Dagger Speech

Macbeth. Dir. Orson Welles. Perf. Orson Welles, Jeanette Nolan, Dan O’Herlihy, Roddy McDowall, Edgar Barner, and Alan Napier. 1948. DVD. Republic Pictures Home Video, 1992.
Although it's easy—and quite amusing—to make fun of the costumes in Orson Welles' 1948 version of Macbeth (for which, see below), the film remains a masterpiece.

Part of its mastery is its use of voiceover for most of the speech. That, combined with Welles' magnificent camera work (including angles, shadows, and focus—or out-of-focus—effects) give us a Macbeth who is more disoriented than evil. Welles seems to have taken Macbeth's inability to sleep and extended it into all aspects of the character. At first, he appears to be playing Macbeth drunk. Upon consideration, he's playing Macbeth as sleep-deprived.  As a college teacher, I recognize this as method acting worth of Stanislavski himself!

That, in turn, gives the witches extraordinary persuasive power. This Macbeth is manipulated.

Another part of this scene that is masterful is Welles' placement of Lady Macbeth's speeches of encouragement—placing them this close to the murder gives them an immediacy that is sometimes lost if they are placed too early. That, too, gives us greater sympathy with this Macbeth—he's less deeply determined to murder Duncan if he needs such convincing this late in the plan.

Of course, the giant steel blisters on the armor help. But I said I'd put off making fun of the costumes until later.

video

And now, let the mockery begin!

This is the first helmet. It's a Grenadier Guard's helmet with the hat the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz wore stuffed on top of it.

This is our first glimpse of the Giant Pointy Shoebox Crown—the witches are placing it on their voodoo doll of Macbeth.

Macbeth now wears that crown. Here, he's visiting Scone's local carnival and trying out the funhouse mirrors

More seriously, here's Macbeth on his throne.  But don't let the smile fool you:  It's not that easy being king (as a Kermit the Frog Macbeth might sing).

Macbeth welcomes the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." It's too bad that he looks so much like so much wretched refuse.

Finally, Macbeth as the Klingon Statue of Liberty! Yes, it's another point of juncture between Shakespeare and Star Trek!

Finally, a completely-unmockable shot—look at the use of lighting, shadows, and camera angles here! Man, Welles!

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Disney Dagger in Polanski

Macbeth. Dir. Roman Polanski. Perf. Jon Finch and Francesca Annis. 1971. Sony, 2002.

Polanski's version makes a number of interesting choices. First, the dagger is visible to the audience. That seems like a small thing, but it has large ramifications. On stage, it would be difficult to have a visible dagger—the kind of choice that stage productions have to make is manifested in their decisions about whether to portray the ghost of Banquo or not. On screen, showing the dagger becomes a viable option—and Polanski seizes upon it.

Showing the dagger can either enable us to enter into Macbeth's psyche (we see what he sees) or invite us to imagine that the witches have heightened power (they are behind the hallucination—they direct Macbeth's actions). The first seems, on the face of it, to be better supported by the text; however, the second is a viable option if we realize that Macbeth's definition of the vision as "A dagger of the mind" (II.i.38) may be merely an interpretation of what he sees rather than a certain description of what he sees.

The rest of Polanski's Macbeth tends to give the weird sisters greater power—greater control over both Macbeth and the larger events of the play. I think that the choice of showing the dagger is part of this tendency.

None of that explains why the dagger looks so ridiculous! I mean—it's shiny and pointy, and it has sparkles all over it! What on earth? It's a Disney version of a Dagger!

Two other interesting decisions are revealed in this clip. Polanski's decision about which parts of Macbeth's speech are in voiceover is one of them. Anyone (besides the audience) observing Macbeth during these three minutes would have heard him say this (and only this):
                        Come let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
My eyes are made the fools o' the other senses
Or else worth all the rest . . .
                          There's no such thing.
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to my eyes.
All the rest (not that we get the rest of the speech in its entirety) is in voiceover. But the fact that not all of the speech is in voiceover blurs the distinction between Macbeth's point of view and what is actually happening. The effect is to point to the dagger again—to make us wonder how real it is, both to Macbeth and to us!

The final thing Polanski does (and it, too, is much easier to do in a film than on stage) is crosscutting to Lady Macbeth's ringing of the bell. It's a reminder that this is a conspiracy, and it brings Lady Macbeth back into Macbeth's thoughts and ours at this key moment. The bell itself might do it—we know that she is supposed to ring a bell when Macbeth's drink is ready (cf. II.i.33)—but it makes her a concrete part of the action.

video

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Monday, May 4, 2009

Bollywood Dagger Speech

Maqbool. Dir. Vishal Bharadwaj. Perf. Irfan Khan and Tabu. 2003. DVD. Music Today, 2004.
Recently, I posted an extract from Maqbool that was more of an example of the flavor of placing Macbeth in India. But I'm hoping to add to a consideration of different versions of "Is this a dagger which I see before me / The handle toward my hand?" (II.i.33ff) to Bardfilm's vast storehouse of knowledge in the next few days. And how could I leave out Maqbool's equivalent version?

The film doesn't have anything directly comparable to the dagger speech, but it does some extremely interesting things with the moments before the murder of Abba Ji (the Duncan analogue).

First, you should know that the Lady Macbeth analogue (Nimmi) is Abba Ji's mistress—though she loathes him and loves Maqbool (the Macbeth analogue).  Nimmi has convinced Maqbool to assassinate Abba Ji and seize his underworld holdings. Because she is his mistress, she's present during the murder—with the resultant splash of blood turning into the equivalent of Lady Macbeth's blood-stained hands.

In the clip below, Maqbool internalizes elements of the dagger speech as his imagination sees a pool of blood where there's only a pool of water.  Though he's assured that the blood has been removed (there had been a blood stain there before), he continues to see the blood. A series of flashback images follow as Maqbool contemplates what he intends to do.

Cinematographically, the most interesting thing is the use of lighting during the murder scene. Although they're not on a train, the lighting makes it look like they are speeding down the tracks in the middle of the night, their actions punctuated by occasional lights from platforms and stations that they pass by.

One quick word of caution:  the clip is filled with violent images.  Well, I expect that you would expect that from a derivative of Macbeth, but forewarned is forearmed.

video


Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Shakespeare in Foxtrot

Amend, Bill. Foxtrot.  Many a book: Many a year.
Many, many years ago, Bill Amend did a week-long series on Macbeth. I can still recall the look on Andy's face when she starts quoting the dagger speech when she learns that Paige is about to study the play in school.

That I don't have. But Sunday's Foxtrot provides this Shakespeare-related comic for all our amusement. Thank you, Bill Amend!


Links: Foxtrot's Official Site. The Specific Comic in Question.

Click below to purchase the most recent Foxtrot book from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Friday, May 1, 2009

Ian McKellen's Dagger Speech

Macbeth. Dir. Philip Casson. Perf. Ian McKellen and Judi Dench. 1979. DVD. A&E Home Video, 2004.
One of the places to watch in any production of Macbeth is the dagger speech. In addition to its obvious dramatic pedigree, it's one of the places where the director and the actor have to make some extremely important decisions—decisions that may determine the significance of much else in the play.

Iam McKellen, directed by Philip Casson, gives a fairly straightforward version of the speech. In part because it is a filmed version of a stage play, there aren't any special effects surrounding the dagger—not even a lighting change. This tends to place not only the imagined dagger but also the imagined outcome of Duncan's murder more firmly in Macbeth himself. In other words, McKellen's delivery of the lines and Casson's decisions as the director tend to put more of the weight of action on Macbeth and less on the supernatural power of the witches:

video

In addition to that (as if that wasn't reason enough to run out and buy the DVD—or just to click on the link below, supporting Bardfilm as you do so), Judi Dench is extraordinary as Lady Macbeth. She makes some stunningly interesting decisions that give her character astounding depths that are unexpected in Lady Macbeths (Ladies Macbeth?) in general.
Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2012 by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest