Richard III

December 29th, 1995







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more trailers Richard III

Still of Maggie Smith and Ian McKellen in Richard IIIStill of Nigel Hawthorne in Richard IIIStill of Maggie Smith in Richard IIIStill of Annette Bening in Richard IIIStill of Annette Bening, Nigel Hawthorne, Maggie Smith, Ian McKellen, Kate Steavenson-Payne and John Wood in Richard IIIStill of Robert Downey Jr. in Richard III

Plot
The classic Shakespearean play about a murderously scheming king staged in an alternative fascist England setting.

Release Year: 1995

Rating: 7.5/10 (7,723 voted)

Director: Richard Loncraine

Stars: Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent

Storyline
William Shakespeare's classic play is brought into the present with the setting as Great Britian in the 1930s. Civil war has erupted with the House of Lancaster on one side, claiming the right to the British throne and hoping to bring freedom to the country. Opposing is the House of York, commanded by the infamous Richard who rules over a fascist government and hopes to install himself as a dictator monarch.

Writers: William Shakespeare, Ian McKellen

Cast:
Ian McKellen - Richard III
Annette Bening - Queen Elizabeth, wife of Edward IV
Jim Broadbent - Duke of Buckingham
Robert Downey Jr. - Lord Rivers
Nigel Hawthorne - George, Duke of Clarence
Kristin Scott Thomas - Lady Anne
John Wood - King Edward IV
Maggie Smith - Duchess of York
Jim Carter - Lord William Hastings
Edward Hardwicke - Lord Thomas Stanley
Adrian Dunbar - James Tyrell
Tres Hanley - Rivers' Mistress
Dominic West - Earl of Richmond
Roger Hammond - Archbishop Thomas
Tim McInnerny - Sir William Catesby

Taglines: I can smile, and murder while I smile

Release Date: 29 December 1995

Filming Locations: Battersea Power Station, Battersea, London, England, UK

Box Office Details

Budget: £6,000,000(estimated)

Gross: $2,600,000 (USA)



Technical Specs

Runtime:



Did You Know?

Trivia:
Ian McKellen reportedly missed an Oscar nomination for Best Actor by 2 votes.

Goofs:
Crew or equipment visible: When King Edward dies we see the crew in the background, with video monitors and costume pieces.

Quotes:
[first lines]
Prince of Wales: Goodnight Father.
King Henry: Goodnight son.
Prince of Wales: Goodnight your majesty.



User Review

An unfairly maligned interpretation

Rating:

From the very first Shakespeare film (a silent version of "King John," of all things), filmmakers have sought to impose their own unique visions on Shakespeare; in the case of "King John," it was fairly simple (a scene of John signing the Magna Carta, which isn't in Shakespeare's play). Ever since, Shakespeare adaptations have faced the difficulty of remaining true to the greatest writer in the history of the English language while bringing something new to the table; filmed plays, after all, belong on PBS, not in the cinema.

Luckily, the minds behind this adaptation of "Richard III" is more than up to the challenge. To be fair, putting the movie in an alternate 1930's Fascist England doesn't serve the sort of lofty purpose that, say, Orson Welles' 1930s updating of "Julius Caesar" (intended to condemn the Fascist governments in Europe at that time) did. What it does do is allow the filmmakers to have a lot of fun. It's not necessarily more accessible -- the Byzantine intrigues and occasionally confusing plot can't be tempered by simply moving the setting ahead 500 years -- but it's definitely more entertaining. There's just something inherently amusing about Richard sneaking off for a pee after the "winter of our discontent" speech (still rambling on as he, ahem, drains the main), or giving the "my kingdom for a horse!" bit while trying to get his Jeep out of the mud.

To be sure, the Fascist England shown in the film isn't very convicing -- from OUR historical hindsight -- but this isn't our world, this is a world fashioned from the imagination that just happens to look like our own, just as Shakespeare's were. You can't criticize "King Lear" for its faux-historical setting any more than you can criticize this film for the same reason.

The complaint registered by a previous commentator -- more or less, "if you're going to move Shakespeare to a new period, you need to be true to that period" -- is utter bollocks, really. After all, it is inherently "untrue" to have people running around speaking Elizabethan dialogue in the 1700s, 1800s, 1900s, etc., so if you try to remain "true," you end up stripping away the dialogue -- the very essence of Shakespeare. I agree with the even more controversial Shakesperean theatre director Peter Sellars in that words are not what makes Shakespeare great, but rather his characters and ideas. But Shakespeare communicated those through his words, and if you change them, it's not Shakespeare anymore. The same commentator pointed to Branagh's more faithful interpretations as a counterweight to this film, yet Branagh's "Hamlet" is not only set in the 18th century but in a country that looks nothing like 1700s Denmark, even though the characters refer to it as such.

The complaints about McKellen's "hamminess" are equally unfounded. What are they using as their basis of comparision? Olivier? Olivier's Richard makes McKellen's look positively restrained by comparision. Richard is egotistical, bombastic, and prone to spouting lines like "thine eyes, sweet lady, have infected mine." I have little doubt in my mind that Skakespeare did not intend Richard to be played "straight" -- indeed, if Shakespeare had any concept of what we call "camp," he was probably thinking of it when he wrote the play. From this point of view, the "silly" little touches like the Al Jolson song at the end and even the newsreel of Richard's coronation fit in perfectly.

As with most Shakespeare films, the plot has been streamlined -- nearly all of the characters are here, but scenes and speeches have been truncated and removed, but despite what some have said, these aren't fatal to the plot or the characters. Richard's seduction of Anne does seem to occur to quickly, but it's not a completely successful one, seeing how she lapses into drug addiction later in the film. Besides, Richard's evil has nothing to do with the fact that his "inability to experience romantic love." Richard isn't a psychological portrait like Hamlet, he's a ruthless bastard, a piece of Tudor propaganda. When people praise "Richard III" (the play), it's not for its character depth.

I notice I've focused more on answering the film's detractors instead of dilineating its merits; in a way, I guess this expresses how much I like it. The cinematography, direction, and acting are all top-notch. The sets are perfect, once you realize that this is NOT historical England -- the power plant subbing for the Tower is more imposing than the real thing could ever be, and the factory ruins that serve as Bosworth Field are certainly more interested than a bunch of tanks and Jeeps roaming around the open countryside. Shakespeare purists will, of course, hate it, but then they hate anyone who dares to put anything more than a cosmetic spin on the Bard, be it Welles' "Voodoo 'Macbeth'" or Brook's stage production of "Titus Andronicus." For everyone else, read the play, then see the movie -- it'll help increase your appreciation of both.









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