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EN2372 Shakespeare:

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EN2372 Shakespeare: Genre, text and performance. Registration Number 0345709. Performance Review: 'O' (2001) Directed by, Tim Blake Nelson. The 1995 release of the film 'Clueless', based on Jane Austen's 'Emma', saw a new trend emerge in Hollywood. By adapting classic literary texts into modern day 'Teen Dramas', the film industry and those working in education may argue that such films allow youngsters an insight into plays and novels written hundreds of years ago. In effect, the work of Shakespeare and others is made accessible to the young, and in a world where reading is now perhaps considered secondary, many may well relish the fact that classic stories are still being presented and enjoyed in this ever evolving and advancing society. As Lynda E. Boose and Richard Burt argue: "...this shift to a cultural studies approach opens new possibilities for a kind of Shakespeare criticism with wider appeal to a non-academic public (which presumes, of course, that the Shakespearean academic necessarily wants such a popular audience).1 It could be argued that this new trend in making Shakespeare accessible to teens through film, is merely a moneymaking commodity. Indeed many of these adaptations pay little respect to the script they are supposedly based upon. However, because the tag line of the film hails itself as being, for example: "an exceptionally intelligent and powerful contemporary adaptation,''2 youngsters, in fear of tackling the original, flock to the cinemas substituting filmic text for literary text while assuming satisfactory understanding. ...read more.


In the scene where Desi and Odin consummate their relationship, Desi says: "I want you to have me however you want." Now, as Barbara Hodgdon again makes clear, not only does this comment suggest Desi giving her body to Odin sexually, proving her love for him, but the comment could be read as suggesting that by Odin and Desi having sex, Odin is making Desi become black. Furthermore, although we understand that one of the main reasons for Hugo's all consuming jealousy is because his father, the coach of the basketball team, proclaims in one of the opening scenes that he loves Odin as he does his own son: we see an opening shot of a cluster of white doves, collected around the roof of a building. While observing the white doves we hear Hugo speaking of how he 'always wanted to fly' and be different to everyone else. This opening imagery and speech is halted sharply and we see a black Hawk fly across the screen accompanied by the sound of loud Hip-Hop. This use of imagery again shows the audience how 'blackness' is envied and even seen as being superior to that of 'whiteness.' With this in mind, it is important to note that 'Othello' is not a play about racism. ...read more.


Now, by making this change perhaps a younger, modern audience can understand more clearly why Emily deceives her friend. Today, man and wife are perhaps considered to be on equal footing, whereas in Shakespearean times this was not the case. The filmmakers have therefore changed Emily's (Emilia) incentive from being that of duty, to that of self-gain and by doing this, perhaps the story they are telling becomes more suitable to a contemporary, young audience. The film was due to be released in the spring of 1999 yet it was held back until 2001 because the release date coincided with the Columbine Massacre. The finale of the film displays a series of bloody shootings. It is interesting to note that, when looking at this film with regards to how it might resonate with a young audience, the filmmakers have unknowingly portrayed an ending that scarily and strangely coincided with a horrific real life event. This perhaps suggests, quite shockingly, that the filmmakers have achieved what they set out to accomplish. 'O' is proof that Shakespeare's stories can be adapted and brought into the modern day. Although it would be wrong to suggest that watching this film could ever replace studying or watching the original play, it not only proves that Shakespeare is timeless, but also, this film and others like it, provide youngsters with interesting and complex story lines while at the same time making Shakespeare accessible. ...read more.

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