The Spectrum of Shakespeare Films
Films of Shakespeare plays have often commented on particular political or national issues. Laurence Olivier’s Henry V, released in 1944, was a brilliantly patriotic morale booster and a contribution to the Allied war effort.
Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 version of the same film turned war into a grim metaphor for grindingly claustrophobic Tory politics.
Branagh keeps returning to Shakespeare (Much Ado About Nothing, Love’s Labour’s Lost), most recently with an ambitious Hamlet (1996).
So does Hollywood, with Mel Gibson in Hamlet, Leonardo di Caprio in Romeo and Juliet, and even Al Pacino’s musings on Richard III.
The experimental film-maker Derek Jarman (1942-94) has a long and committed engagement with Shakespeare, most flamboyantly in his idiosyncratic version of The Tempest, but elsewhere meditating on the sonnets.
Peter Greenaway has notoriously filmed his own Tempest as Prospero’s Books.