Thursday, September 17, 2009

Modernized Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure. Dir. Bob Komar. Perf. Daniel Roberts, Simon Phillips, Kristopher Milnes, Dawn Murphy, Simon Nuckley, and Josephine Rogers. 2006. DVD. Lucky Strike Productions, 2007.
The tag line for this production is "Prepare to be Judged."

I wonder how many critics have used that as a preface to their review. Too many, I imagine, to allow me to use it with any flavor of freshness—especially as I haven't managed to see the entire film and am, therefore, not prepared to judge it completely!

When I purchased Bob Komar's Measure for Measure from (it hasn't been released in the U.S. yet), I thought that it was a derivative version of the play. I thought that Shakespeare's language had been abandoned but the plot retained in the manner of the BBC's Shakespeare Retold series. Instead, it's an adaptation—a modified version of the text, but one that retains Shakespeare's language. It's setting is modern: we're in the British army now.

Again, I haven't watched the film in its entirety, but I have seen enough to be interested. The moral laxity of Measure for Measure's Vienna is translated to drinking, drug use, and debauchery in the troops, and that seems to be a careful decision rather than a flippantly-random setting. On the other hand, I am somewhat skeptical of the cinematography, which is highly influenced by reality-show conventions.

The main concern I have so far is the film's sporadic approach to the text. For example, Angelo's "'Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus, / Another thing to fall" (II.i.17ff) is removed from its context of a discussion between Angelo and Escalus on Claudio's life and the nature of temptation and presented more or less as a set speech:

'Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,
Another thing to fall. I not deny,
The jury, passing on the prisoner's life,
May in the sworn twelve have a thief or two
Guiltier than him they try. What's open made to justice,
That justice seizes: what know the laws
That thieves do pass on thieves? 'Tis very pregnant,
The jewel that we find, we stoop and take't
Because we see it; but what we do not see
We tread upon, and never think of it.
You may not so extenuate his offence
For I have had such faults; but rather tell me,
When I, that censure him, do so offend,
Let mine own judgment pattern out my death,
And nothing come in partial. (II.i.17-31)
That said (and that shown), I'm still interested in seeing how Komar works his way through the rest of the play. The setting seems both reasonable and thoughtfully-chosen, and the acting (though not brilliant) isn't to be scorned. Furthermore, the idea of a female Escalus is an intriguing one. Once I'm more prepared to judge it, I'll attempt to do so, recognizing that my own screenplay of a Measure for Measure derivative will be judged by the same standards I apply to this adaptation.
Links: The Film at IMDB.

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

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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.
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