In this essay, I am going to review the first four scenes of Act 1 in the BBC’s movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. I will look at the acting, casting, diction, set, music, costume and camera work to analyse if it was successful in compiling a movie from a piece of outstanding literature from William Shakespeare.
A play read and a play performed are two entirely different things; nature, reactions and tones of characters become paramount in the movies (and sometimes in theatre). The BBC’s production makes some interesting choices in how characters behave and relate and uses many different camera angles.
First of all, Viola (played by Felicity Kendal) appears at first as a shipwreck survivor. I think this is not clearly shown and without the speech it would be impossible to tell that Viola and the captain had just survived a shipwreck. As a movie this is poor but however in an Elizabethan theatre without the diction nothing would be understood. The purpose of this movie could be to recreate this play in theatre form. Viola wears a shapeless cloak and hood that a man could be seen wearing.
To enter Orsino’s room she dons masculine clothes, and Felicity Kendall behaves and acts excellently; her tones are varied and her character is of the typical Shakespearean youth. In theatre, her femininity would not be obvious however in this movie (mainly because of the close up shots) her womanly nature peers through her disguise as Cesario. She was inexpressive and unconcerned when Orsino talks about her femininity; this was brilliant acting. I expected Viola to be younger.
Orsino proves to be an intriguing character. Played by Clive Arrindell, Orsino is young and dashing, both in clothes and behaviour – this make us wonder why Olivia isn’t attracted to him? This time, I expected the Duke to be older. Clive Arrindell skilfully plays the part of the conventional lover, his loose open-necked shirt is pulled askew and his mind is in sober thoughtfulness. There seems to be some homosexual comments made by Orsino directed at Cesario:
‘Diana’s lip is not more smooth and rubious…’ (I.iv.31-2).
Orsino also says that everything about Cesario is feminine; however these comments could be compliments as he pins all his hopes on Cesario/Viola. The music at the start of scene one was dull and when it was stopped playing it didn’t make us (the audience) want to hear more of it. This was poorly done. The set for Orsino’s house gives us an idea of how ‘posh’ he is; there is a huge tapestry in his wall and we also see large windows (windows were taxed for at the time). Orsino also has a large number of servants that are grandly dressed.
The camera work for the conversation between Viola (Cesario) and Orsino is excellent. First of all, we have a long shot as Orsino walks in; this is followed by an over shoulder shot which looks over the shoulder of Viola at Orsino. There is a switch of view so that we watch the speaker and also a reaction shot to show Viola; these two views are known as mid-angle shots or two-shots. After the Duke walks out, we have a close-up of Viola as she wonders out aloud.
In the household of Olivia, we have many different features. The mood is expected to be sombre after two family deaths but this isn’t the case. Sir Toby Belch (played by Robert Hardy) is a figure of fun; he is arrogant, churlish and is a drunkard. A large number of undone buttons helps show that he is a drunkard. Robert Hardy portrays Sir Toby Belch brilliantly; his appearance was exactly like I expected it to be.
Sir Toby’s friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek is a drippy, confused, and unoriginal character. He repeats Sir Toby’s words rather than replace them. His costume (based yellow) and confused wooing of Maria best describes him.
Maria is like Sir Toby a figure of fun; she is excitable and Feste describing her as the perfect match for Sir Toby sums her up. Feste provides quick wit; his sayings such as a ‘good hanging prevents a bad marriage’ increase the humour. He too seems joyful.
The four characters we have met so far in Olivia’s household, all have a common theme ‘fun’. Their innocence makes them likeable characters despite their sometimes unnecessary actions. The set for Olivia’s house is not as ‘rich’ as Orsino’s; there are no huge tapestries or windows but still it is clear to see that she is a wealthy woman. Here, there are fewer servants and they aren’t so grandly dressed. The camera work for the conversations in this household is similar to that in Orsino’s but we see no close-up shots.
To sum up, this adaptation has been fairly well done; however there are mistakes in the choice of music and cast. The purpose is unclear but however the camera work, set and acting has been superbly done at times.