Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Director to Adapt Each of Shakespeare's Play #24: RICHARD II directed by Terrence Malick

The Plot:

Oh, hey, look, it’s another unpopular English king. Richard II rose to the throne at a young age and never really had a chance to, like, find himself. You know just take a year off and hitchhike across the country. Instead, he was thrust into a full-time job with lots and lots of overtime. But one way to travel when you’re the king is to invade another country! Ireland seems as good a choice as any, but when he’s away, Henry Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) takes the opportunity to invade England. The people are so tired of Richard's aloofness that Henry finds he is warmly embraced rather than repelled. Henry takes the throne without so much as a skirmish and Richard gets knocked off before he can make it down to the unemployment office.

Why Malick?

Not to be confused with the much more aggressive, visceral play about the hump-backed king, Richard II is notable for having some of the most beautiful poetry to be found in Shakespeare. Richard is strangely disconnected from the events surrounding him for most of the play as he engages instead in various philosophical musings. Indeed, the play works as a compelling counterpoint to Shakespeare’s other histories because the joys that the author provides come in a completely different manner and at a completely different pace. There’s not much plot to found in Richard II, but there is plenty of introspection and metaphor. Malick’s a great fit here, I think. Most film adaptations of Shakespeare attack the text in order to bring it to life for a modern audience. Often, Shakespeare’s more flowery, metaphorical language is cut in favor of streamlining the plot down to what will be easily understandable. It would be fun to see a film in the spirit of Days of Heaven or The Thin Red Line that takes a little more time and lingers over the beauty of Shakespeare’s language. The minimal plot would give one of the cinema’s true poets an opportunity to turn Richard II – Shakespeare’s quiet, compelling historical meditation – into a film that allows us to appreciate yet another aspect of the playwright’s versatility.

Malick films I have seen:
1. The Thin Red Line ****
2. Days of Heaven ***1/2
3. Badlands ***


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