The Tempest

| September 25, 2012

The Tempest is my favorite Shakespeare play. The ambiguous plot allows it to be a range of different genres and one of Shakespeare’s best. Having only seen Richard Burton’s stage-to-screen Hamlet and Royal Shakespeare televised productions, I was curious to see an updated film transfer. My decision was even easier knowing Christopher Plummer was playing the part of Prospero.

The Tempest focuses on a shipwreck conjured up by the magical Prospero. Once a king, Prospero was supplanted by his brother and exiled to a cell on an island. Seeing a ship bound for Naples, he seeks revenge by wrecking the vessel and taking the crew captive. Spread across the island, the scattered sailors fear the missing members of the crew have drowned.

The story is primarily centered on the estranged King Aloso and his son Ferdinand re-uniting.  Shipwrecked near the Cell, young Prince Ferdinand falls for Prospero’s daughter, Miranda. Having only seen her father and the half-fish half man, Caliban, the woman returns the romance. With a father’s watchful eye, Prospero sentences Ferdinand to hard labor to prove his love.

On the other side of the island, the King and his servants wash up on shore. Arielle, the fairy of Prospero, goes to investigate. She puts a sleeping curse on all but Sebastian and Antonio, Prospero’s power-hungry brother. Antonio convinces Sebastian of his ability to take the crown of Naples if only he were to take initiative.  The two plot to murder King Alonso only to be caught with swords drawn when Arielle breaks the curse. The two convince the party wild animals are near and they had better be prepared. They all move on to search for others.

In an even more remote part of the island, Stephano and Trinculo are shipwrecked. They meet Caliban as he collects wood for Prospero. After a few drinks from Stephano’s wine bottle,  the slave begs the two men to free him from his binds. In exchange, they will rule the island and inherit him as a servant. Stephano and Trinculo agree and head off to murder Prospero.

The transition from theater to stage is always a tricky one. Do you stress theatrics or cinematic elements more? Des McAnuff, known for his directing of Tommy and Jersey Boys, stresses the former so well it doesn’t need to rely on the latter. While it does read off-kilter when film techniques are applied, they’re easily disregarded.

From start to finish Plummer proves a true Shakespearean actor. His command of the Shakespearean dialogue puts us in a trance as only such words from the playwright could do. Trish Lindstrom and Julyana Soelistyo also stand out as Miranda and Ariel. Peter Hutt, the King saddened by the believed loss of his son, is the only visible misstep. His overbearing somber character casts a bleak opinion on his acting rather than our hearts.

The Tempest is one of the theatrical productions that shows in movie houses. While it’s a worthy screen transfer and outstanding production, I wouldn’t drop the $13 to see it. Though to see the live performance, I wouldn’t mind putting a dent in my wallet.

About the Author:

Daniel currently resides in New York City working as a freelance writer and director. He is a graduate of the Film and Video department of Columbia College, specializing in Italian Neo-realism and French & British New Wave cinema.
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