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Kenneth Branagh acted in and directed more Shakespeare plays than any other filmmaker before him; yet he also defied what was expected from a Shakespearean actor-director. First, he used the codes of Hollywood cinema to make the plays entertaining and available to a younger, more popular audience. Second, he not only adapted Shakespeare but also ventured into directing Hollywood blockbusters, as well as more intimate projects on stage and screen, injecting Shakespearean echoes into a new range of productions. Through his taste for popular, mainstream movies, his bold self-made trajectory that carried him repeatedly in and out of the ‘Establishment’, Branagh has contributed to redefining relations between Shakespeare and Hollywood, between the art house and the multiplex, and between theatre and cinema. Through his ceaselessly renewed ‘vaulting ambition’ of bringing Shakespeare to the people, Branagh has constructed over the years the ideologically complex persona of a working-class Shakespearean entrepreneur.
In 4.6, Edgar, who pretends to be Poor Tom, guides his blind father Gloucester towards Dover. Gloucester has asked to be led to the top of a cliff so that he can end his days. But the cliff is only an illusion created verbally by Edgar who wants to protect his father’s life. This scene uses the power of the Elizabethan stage to become a moment of pure theatre, calling for a bare stage to retain all its ambiguities. The aim of this contribution is to show how cinema and television can sometimes maintain, and even foster, the scene’s paradoxes of a non-space. The chapter interrogates the possibilities offered by the screen to reflect the complex dramatic and metadramatic tensions in several film productions of King Lear that use Shakespeare’s playtext. These screen productions, emerging from different media and production contexts, all present different strategies to represent the ‘cliff’ scene. From Richard Eyre’s 1998 film, to films made for television and video release, to feature films (Peter Brook’s in 1971), they all attempt, through textual cuts, framing and/or editing, to circumvent the problem posed by a scene that seems to encapsulate the very essence of the bare Elizabethan stage.
The introduction offers an overview of the various destinies of King Lear on screen, providing a reflection on the filmic objects themselves but also, through a review of the state of the art, on the ways they have been received by academia. The introduction justifies the organization of the volume in four sections (Surviving Lear; Lear en Abyme; The Genres of Lear; Lear on the Loose), contextualizing the subsequent chapters and precisely pointing to their original contributions in the field. The concept of ‘dislocation’ is used to explore the ways in which the Lear films have worked on crisis, vagrancy, geographical displacement, migration (both in their following of the characters’ wanderings but also in their placing the play in other cultural environments) and on fragmentation (with dramatic motifs being dismantled and appropriated in ‘free’ adaptations). By revisiting ‘canonical’ versions, translations and free retellings in the Anglophone zones but also those beyond the US/UK axis, as well as ‘mirror’ metanarrative films, their genres and receptions through time, the introduction announces chapters that take part in the ceaseless investigation of what King Lear means and the way its ‘Learness’ continues to circulate and inform our contemporary cultures and especially to mirror the predicaments of today’s ‘unaccommodated’ men and women.
The third volume in the re-launched series Shakespeare on Screen is devoted to film versions and adaptations of King Lear. Bringing together an international group of scholars, the chapters provide new insights and perspectives on what constitutes 'Learness' in a range of films, TV productions, translations, free retellings and appropriations from around the world. Taking 'screen' in its broader sense, it also covers digital material such as video archives, internet movies and YouTube videos. The volume features an invaluable film-bibliography and accompanying online resources include additional essays and an expanded version of the film-bibliography.
The second volume in the re-launched series Shakespeare on Screen is devoted to The Tempest and Shakespeare's late romances, offering up-to-date coverage of recent screen versions as well as new critical reviews of older, canonical films. An international cast of authors explores not only productions from the USA and the UK, but also translations, adaptations and appropriations from Poland, Italy and France. Spanning a wide chronological range, from the first cinematic interpretation of Cymbeline in 1913 to The Royal Ballet's live broadcast of The Winter's Tale in 2014, the volume provides an extensive treatment of the plays' resonance for contemporary audiences. Supported by a film-bibliography, numerous illustrations and free online resources, the book will be an invaluable resource for students, scholars and teachers of film studies and Shakespeare studies.