Film Review: A Caribbean Dream

Shakirah Bourne’s A Caribbean Dream is an amiable reimagining of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

In Barbados, Hermia is set to marry Demetrius, even though she is in love with Lysander. During a festival, the mischievous Puck decides to play tricks on the islanders, Under love spells, chaos ensues…

Writer and director Shakirah Bourne transport Shakespeare’s whimsical play to a contemporary, tropical island setting. This works rather well; the festival gives cause for the music and costumes. The tone of the play is matched by the frivolity of the film’s setting. The combination of Shakespearean language and Barbadian culture is a good match. Bourne introduces local folklore into the story in the form of the festival and the fishermen’s play. Initially, this works well, distinguishing this adaptation from others.

Nevertheless, the play that is performed towards the end of the film lacks tightness. The sequence feels overlong, despite the overall brevity of the film’s duration. The main aspect which this scene, and indeed the film itself, lacks is comedy. Although there are certainly some amusing bits, humour is not always successful.

The strongest aspect of A Caribbean Dream is the night sequence. Various elements come together in good form, with a well photographed setting, lively make up, and a good soundtrack. The central love story combines traditional and contemporary elements. The arranged marriage seems rather archaic, however the mixed race relationships give the film a more modern edge. The film does not make this a domineering point, with Bourne choosing to focus on the playful elements of the narrative.

Performances in A Caribbean Dream are mixed. Lorna Gayle shines among the cast, bringing both humour and earnestness as Bottom. Keshia Pope and Sam Gillett are not quite as convincing. Although flawed, A Caribbean Dream is still an entertaining watch. It will be interesting to see what Shakirah Bourne tackles next.

A Caribbean Dream is released on DVD from Monday 12th February 2018.

Film Review: Macbeth

Macbeth

Director Justin Kurzel delivers a haunting adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic. Macbeth is a sharp and often brutal cinematic retelling of the play.

Macbeth, a Thane of Scotland, receives a prophecy that he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition, Macbeth is spurred on by his wife to take action to claim the throne for himself…

Justin Kurzel, director of 2011’s Snowtown, has created powerful and evocative cinema with his version of Macbeth. The cinematography, setting, sound and screenplay combine to offer an adaptation that works fantastically on the big screen. Michael Fassbender delivers a commanding performance as the title character. He is ably aided by Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth and Sean Harris as a memorable Macduff.

Kurzel’s Macbeth has been trimmed from the original for the screen, as is necessary given the length of the play. The changes make the duration feel brisk, without losing the essence of the play. There are also some changes to the delivery and set-ups, but those enamoured with Shakespeare’s work will likely see the reasoning behind this.

Macbeth keeps the original Shakespeare dialogue. Whilst this may seem impenetrable, particularly for those less familiar with the bard’s plays, it actually works well within the context. This is because this version of Macbeth relies heavily on the visual, meaning that viewers will be able to follow the story even if they do not understand every word of the dialogue. The screenplay trims a significant amount of dialogue, with images helping to tell the story.

Justin Kurzel directs the action with a brusqueness that suits the overall tone. The film keeps the original period in its setting, and the battle sequences work well to depict the brutality of the time, whilst also mirroring the mindset of the protagonist. Macbeth’s descent into madness is concise but effective. Use of colour and composition in Macbeth is excellent. The sound, employed throughout, is a big element of the haunting atmosphere.

With striking performances and an evocative atmosphere, Kurzel’s Macbeth is a most admirable cinematic retelling of the Scottish play.

Film Review: Coriolanus

Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut Coriolanus is a modern-day adaptation of the Shakespeare’s play using the Bard’s original language. The film is skillfully produced but unfortunately rather dull.

Caius Martius is a respected member of the Roman army, well known for his bravery. Succeeding on his most recent mission to defend Rome from the Volscian uprising, the soldier is bestowed with the name Coriolanus and encouraged to run for consul. Angering the populace and with politicians as enemies, Coriolanus is in for a rough ride…

Coriolanus is a solid debut from Fiennes. Notwithstanding, there is a major problem with the film in that it can be a little boring at times. It feels too drawn out as a whole to hold one’s attention for the entire duration. While the battle scenes are frenetic, some of the dialogue-heavy scenes are far too prolonged. There are sine good scenes, such as the crowd polling one, but others go on for too long and slacken the entire film’s momentum.

The contemporary setting of Coriolanus works well, although it is unusual and unintentionally humorous to hear news reader Jon Snow speak in Shakespearean verse. Some of the issues covered by the film, such as the duty of public servants, are very pertinent for modern audiences. The battle scenes are full throttle, with Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography reminiscent of his work in The Hurt Locker.

Ralph Fiennes delivers a powerhouse performance in the title role. Excellent support is provided by Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox. Jessica Chastain is also decent as ever, but underused in her minor role.

In one way, it was a wise move to adapt Coriolanus; unlike a lot of Shakespeare’s work, not all will be familiar with it. There is an element of unpredictability which is missing from adaptations of the Bard’s more famous works. Nevertheless, Coriolanus is not the most interesting of stories as not an awful lot happens in the two-hour running time.

Coriolanus is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.

Coriolanus Trailer

Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus is due for release on 20th January 2012. I saw footage from the film at Empire Big Screen, and it looks pretty interesting. Although Shakespearean dialogue in the modern day has been done before (1997’s Romeo + Juliet for example), it still appears a little unusual. Nonetheless, it is refreshing that Fiennes has chosen to adapt one of Shakespeare’s lesser know works. I for one will have no idea how the narrative will pan out. The film stars Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox.