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In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Othello, love collides with violent conflict, creating a range of challenges and opportunities for filmmakers and their visions of the plays. Key to the plays are questions of identity, and the borders between Shakespeare’s lovers have been interpreted in the twenty-first century in profoundly political ways, resonating with inter-racial, caste and ethnic conflict, honour killings, domestic violence and discourses of sexual politics and gender identity. This chapter surveys the range of Romeo and Juliet and Othello on screen, considering some of the lesser-known and recent adaptations alongside the landmark films. While not exhaustive, it illustrates the scope and range of possibilities the plays have offered to filmmakers from various cultures.
The Australian film The Eye of the Storm (2011), directed by Fred Schepisi, enters into complex intertextual dialogues with both the novel that it adapts, Patrick White’s The Eye of the Storm (1973), and Shakespeare’s King Lear. This chapter explores the ‘Learness’ of Schepisi’s film, and the oscillating effect of both parallels and key departures. With a female Lear as the central protagonist, the film is part of an intriguing history of adaptations or appropriations that have explored gender in Lear. The Eye of the Storm also raises questions of postcoloniality and national identity. Furthermore, the film explores ideas of the harsh Australian landscape, the narrative culminating in a tropical storm that relocates the heath of Lear to northern Queensland. The film invites a range of questions on what appropriating Lear can mean in contemporary film, and how it can articulate suffering, complex relationships and the human condition. In this process, the medium of film itself plays a key role and the chapter considers the ways in which the medium itself, and filmic choices such as screen composition, camera angles, point of view and mise-en-scène, facilitate our engagement with the key characters, the concept of ‘Learness’ and the theme of human suffering.
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.