Monday, August 11, 2008

A few final showers before the clouds of Tempest week scatter

The Tempest. Silent Shakespeare. Dir. Percy Stow. Perf. Unknown. 1908. DVD. Image Entertainment, 2000.

The Tempest. Dir. Derek Jarman. Perf. Heathcote Williams, Karl Johnson, Jack Birkett, and Toyah Willcox. 1979. Kino Video, 2000.

The Tempest. Shakespeare:  The Animated Tales. Dir. Stanislav Sokolov. Perf. Martin Jarvis, Timothy West, and Alun Armstrong. 1992. DVD. Ambrose Video, 2004.

I just wanted to mention (this is a MicroBlog, after all) three additional productions of The Tempest—and they couldn’t be more different from each other.

First, a 1908 silent version. I don’t have it with me at this moment, but I was surprised at just how advanced the techniques were for that year. It had a more convincing shipwreck than the BBC versions, some nice sudden disappearances of Ariel, and a much longer runtime than I expected. It’s available in a really remarkable DVD with a number of other silent version of Shakespeare plays.

Second, the Jarman Tempest. Whenever I read about Jarman, he seems to be described as the darling of the critics. I’m glad he’s somebody’s darling. I haven’t re-watched his version, but I did glance at it again. It’s a dark, often foul version with a fair amount of nudity (and nudity that is somehow different in quality than Greenaway’s film’s . . . it’s possibly still artistic, but for decidedly different purposes). All in all, it’s too avant-garde for my tastes. Watch this one at your own aesthetic and moral risk.

Finally, there’s a delightful animated version intended for a younger audience. Part of the twelve-play Animated Shakespeare series, this Tempest is bright and airy, with a genuinely funny (albeit quite strange) Caliban.

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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.
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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