Ophelia review – tragic no longer

Ophelia is one of Shakespeare’s most iconic yet underdeveloped dramatic roles. A sweet and naïve girl, she’s driven mad by Hamlet’s wavering affections and her father’s death. She was often the subject of paintings, yet rarely of novels until the 21st century. Ophelia, starring Daisy Ridley, is an adaptation of Lisa Klein’s 2006 book of the same name, and does a valiant job at not only filling in the blanks but bringing some flair of its own.Ophelia is a precocious child of the Danish court, handpicked by Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts) to join her ladies-in-waiting. She soon becomes the Queen’s confidant, reading her stories and fulfilling errands. This access lends her privy to the royal family’s failing marriage and the machinations of the King’s brother, Claudius (Clive Owen). When Prince Hamlet (George MacKay) returns from university, she becomes entwined in the rise and fall of a dynasty.

Ophelia has a tough act balancing loyalty to the source material and finding its own rhythm. Key to what works is Daisy Ridley, who brings guile and fidelity to Ophelia without ever betraying the original role. She undoubtably looks the part, immediately bringing to mind John Everett Millais’s masterpiece (which is referenced in the cinematography), but adds an agency that’s sorely lacking in the play.

Semi Chellas’s script does a good job at expanding the women’s roles. Pivotal moments from Hamlet, such as the Queen’s remarriage or Ophelia’s mad singing, are no longer mysteries of the woman’s mind but logical steps to advance in a man’s world. Ophelia sees the folly in the men’s violent distractions, while the Queen numbs herself to them. In the end, they both reap what they sow.

Not everything works so well. It’s rather apt that Ridley stars, as at times it feels like watching one of Disney’s Star Wars films, shoehorning Shakespeare references with knowing winks. Some land neatly, such as Naomi Watts playing siblings like Claudius and the King are traditionally cast, and some come screeching in, such as a potion that mimics death. There’s also an attempt to mirror Shakespeare’s language without committing to new prose, which proves distracting.

Daisy Ridley and Naomi Watts in Ophelia

Ironically, at times it feels like the Hamlet scenes are getting in the way of Ophelia’s story, bending it out of shape to fit the pre-existing narrative. Scenes such as “The Mousetrap Play” are admirably staged, but Hamlet’s constant disappearances makes his relationship with Ophelia difficult to invest in. You can’t help but wonder why she doesn’t sack the unstable emo off altogether.

Still, it’s easier to forgive such inconsistencies when the film looks this good. Director Claire McCarthy and cinematographer Denson Baker rinse every drop of beauty from each frame. In an interview with theartsdesk earlier this week, McCarthy revealed the look is a tribute to Pre-Raphaelite art. It’s an apt comparison. Scenes feel tangibly historical but sumptuously composed, creating images that bely the likely small budget.

How well Ophelia works depends on what you’re expecting from it. As a partner piece to Hamlet, it’s an interesting twist on the traditional roles. As a standalone film, it somewhat suffers from its parent script. But particularly strong performances and beautiful imagery make it worth catching.

Source THE ARTS DESK: Ophelia review – tragic no longer

Does it matter if Mary Shelley was bisexual? 

Mary Shelley is a queen. Daughter of modern feminism’s founder, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the radical thinker William Godwin, this rebellious woman wrote one of the earliest and most influential gothic horror novels: Frankenstein. Published in 1818, when Shelley was just 20 years old, it remains a work of genius that can still horrify readers with the depths of man’s depravity and pursuit of knowledge at all costs. It is also a novel that places love, and the desire for love in its absence, at the heart of life. For this, and many other reasons, Shelley has become an idol for those whose souls search for belonging in dark times.

She’s also someone who I thought couldn’t really become any cooler. After all, this is the woman said to have married her lover, Percy Bysshe Shelley, after losing her virginity to him at the graveside of her mother. And then, after he drowned in a storm in 1822, carried his calcified heart – the only thing to survive his cremation – with her, wrapped in a silk shroud, until her death in 1851. (It was found in her desk, wrapped in the pages of one of his last poems.) But this week, Fiona Sampson, author of In Search of Mary Shelley, taught me something new: Shelley was bisexual. Continue reading

Mary Shelley is a queen. Daughter of modern feminism’s founder, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the radical thinker William Godwin, this rebellious woman wrote one of the earliest and most influential gothic horror novels: Frankenstein. Published in 1818, when Shelley was just 20 years old, it remains a work of genius that can still horrify readers with the depths of man’s depravity and pursuit of knowledge at all costs. It is also a novel that places love, and the desire for love in its absence, at the heart of life. For this, and many other reasons, Shelley has become an idol for those whose souls search for belonging in dark times.

She’s also someone who I thought couldn’t really become any cooler. After all, this is the woman said to have married her lover, Percy Bysshe Shelley, after losing her virginity to him at the graveside of her mother. And then, after he drowned in a storm in 1822, carried his calcified heart – the only thing to survive his cremation – with her, wrapped in a silk shroud, until her death in 1851. (It was found in her desk, wrapped in the pages of one of his last poems.) But this week, Fiona Sampson, author of In Search of Mary Shelley, taught me something new: Shelley was bisexual. Continue reading

Shakespeare gets a sitcom in ‘Upstart Crow’

Upstart Crow

The popular film “Shakespeare in Love” seemed to unleash a wave of fictional imaginings of the English writer: the plays “Equivocation” and “The Beard of Avon,” the films “Anonymous” and “All Is True,” the short-lived TV series “Will.” But 1999’s frothy Best Picture winner was hardly the first rendering of Shakespeare as a fictional character.

The Bard of Avon made periodic appearances in novels throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, from a trilogy by Robert Folkestone Williams in the 1840s to Anthony Burgess’s 1964 book Nothing Like the Sun. And his first recorded stage appearance as a character is from 1679, some 60 years after the playwright’s death, when “the Ghost of Shakespeare” emerged to give a prologue to Thomas Dryden’s version of “Troilus and Cressida.”

There is nothing ghostly about the Shakespeare we meet in “Upstart Crow,” a delightfully cheeky BBC sitcom comprising three short seasons, available in the United States through the on-demand service Britbox as well as via Amazon. As played by the acerbic David Mitchell, one half of the comedy duo Mitchell and Webb, this Will Shakespeare is a mildly schlubby and insecure if well-intentioned striver, dividing his time between a bustling family hearth in Stratford and a rooming house in London from which he is building his playwriting career. The show’s title comes from an epithet hurled at Shakespeare in 1592 by a jealous poet, Robert Greene, in a pamphlet.

A fictional Greene is on hand as the show’s mustache-twirling villain to pound home the familiar theme of Shakespeare’s low birth and insufficiently fancy education. In a typical pithy putdown, he dismisses Shakespeare as “a country bum-snot, an oik of Avon, a town-school spotty-grotty.” The show’s Greene also functions as a literal nemesis, positioned (ahistorically) as the Master of the Revels, the impresario and censor through whom all staged entertainment must pass muster [ . . . ]

Continue at AMERICA: Shakespeare gets a sitcom in ‘Upstart Crow’ | America Magazine

The Books Podcast: what makes Shakespeare special?

In this week’s books podcast my guest is Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, Oxford, who’s talking about her new book This Is Shakespeare. What is it that makes Shakespeare special — and is it defensible that, as even in university curricula, we talk about Shakespeare apart from and above the whole of the rest of literature? How did he think about genre? Why is Act Four always a bit boring? Is the Tempest an autumnal masterpiece or the thin work of a writer of dwindling powers? And how filthy is A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

Source: The Books Podcast: what makes Shakespeare special? | Coffee House

A Horrorshow Find: ‘Clockwork Orange’ Follow-Up Surfaces After Decades Unseen

Anthony Burgess
Anthony Burgess

Not long after the release of the film adaptation, Anthony Burgess embarked on an ambitious companion to his seminal novel. But it was never published, and the manuscript went unread — until now.

Gather round, my droogs. It’s time for a story.

Not long after the 1971 release of the film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, the novel’s author, Anthony Burgess, received an offer from a publisher: Write a short follow-up to the novel, one that uses the word “Clockwork” in the title and brims with artwork, and we will make you a rich man.

So, according to Burgess scholar Andrew Biswell, the novelist got to work on a brief piece, which soon became a big piece, which eventually ballooned to 200 pages. Written under the name The Clockwork Condition, the work was to be a philosophical meditation on the very nature of modern life. But alas, it never was — the manuscript was never published, and despite rumors of the project, it was never found either.

Until now [ . . . ]

Full story at NPR A Horrorshow Find: ‘Clockwork Orange’ Follow-Up Surfaces After Decades Unseen