Whether you're a novice or an expert on the works of William Shakespeare, the plays that immediately come to mind are "Romeo & Juliet," "Hamlet," and "Julius Caesar." But there are still many yet to realize Shakespeare wrote dozens upon dozens of plays -- dramatic, comedic, and historical -- that we need to revisit from time to time.
While the theater remains the best venue to perform Shakespeare's extensive repertoire, movies have gotten past his most recognizable works to portray those which don't come to mind as quickly. These are the few movies that bring Shakespeare's more obscure works to a bigger audience than ever before:
Julie Taymor made her directorial debut with this adaptation of Shakespeare's "Titus Adronicus," which is considered one of his lesser works due to its use of graphic violence. However, Taymor gets a fantastic motion picture out of the play thanks to the amazing visuals she captures, along with the performances of her well-regarded cast of actors.
Anthony Hopkins plays the title role and adds a touch of Hannibal Lecter to the proceedings as he gets deserved revenge against Tamora (the terrific Jessica Lange) and her two sons, who viciously and unforgivably attack his daughter. Other great performances come from Alan Cumming, whose quest for power irredeemably corrupts him beyond repair, and Harry Lennix, who steals the show as the irrepressibly vengeful Aaron.
The most recent adaptation of a Shakespeare play, "Coriolanus" proves to be even more obscure than "Titus Andronicus." This Shakespeare play isn't performed as often because of its dense script, but screenwriter John Logan manages to streamline it to where you never lose track of what's going on.
Ralph Fiennes (who stars and directs) updates the story of a brilliant Roman general who is banished from his homeland to the present day, where the story's themes dovetail almost perfectly with the state of the modern world. Shades of Occupy Wall Street can be seen throughout as we watch the townspeople blame the general for the goods that don't get delivered to the common people.
Kenneth Branagh was the first to bring this Shakespearean comedy to the silver screen. He updates the story of men who promise not to fall in love (and fail miserably at it) to the Europe of 1939. By having the characters belt out classic Broadway songs of the time and feature old time newsreel footage, Branagh hoped to make this story more accessible to modern audiences.
That it remains the actor/director's least successful Shakespeare adaptation to date, however, shouldn't keep you from giving it a look. The energy Branagh extracts from the entire cast (including Alicia Silverstone, Matthew Lillard, and Nathan Lane) is so infectious that you will find yourself wanting to travel back to the 1930s to have as much fun as they obviously did.
Other articles by Ben Kenber:
Heading to the movies? Get an instant mobile coupon to use at select theaters for free popcorn!
- Arts & Entertainment
- Arts & Entertainment/Performing Arts
- William Shakespeare
- Julie Taymor