Last week was the birthday of the greatest writer ever. William Shakespeare’s works were created 400 years ago and gave the template for nearly every movie we watch today.
Some of his plays might have happy endings, those would be the comedies. But when the ending is sad and tragic, Ol’ Will went for the whole tamale. You knew it was a tragedy when nearly everyone died. Romeo and Juliet is the most romantic story ever and you know what happened there.
I know some of you are saying. “Wait a minute, we had to read that in high school and it was so boring.”
Ok, I will admit that some plays do not translate well when read in a droning manner by a high schooler being forced by the teacher to read out loud. Just remember that Romeo and Juliet were teenagers themselves – passionate and hot-headed. Forbidden love is the most desirable, especially for teens, and Shakespeare knew it.
Now go rent the movie version of Hamlet (1991) starring Mel Gibson and suddenly all of the power of the play comes alive. Glenn Close stars as his mother and Ophelia is played with tragic perfection by Helena Bonham Carter. There are the monologues, the fights, the almost loves. And the ghost. Who can forget the ghost?
Most kids might think that the plot line of Hamlet is familiar. Kid inherits a kingdom after the death of the father but the uncle usurps his place. Hmmm, that sounds almost like the…The Lion King?
Yes siree, the folks at the Mouse corporation took the old story and made it new again with a great score. The story is about a young cub who loses his father in a terrible accident. His favorite uncle insinuates that it is the cub’s fault and he should leave the kingdom. But when others in the kingdom come looking for him, the grown-up cub comes home to take his rightful place.
The Lion King is essentially Hamlet with a happy ending while maintaining a certain richness. Plus, Jeremy Irons is the greatest of villains as the uncle, Scar.
Want another modern movie that takes on Shakespeare? How about Ten Things I Hate About You (1999) starring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. This teen comedy was simply Taming of the Shrew all over again set in high school as a young man tries to woo an unlikable girl.
Oh, and as for Romeo and Juliet? You can see the Baz Luhrmann 1996 production with Leonardo Di Caprio and Clair Danes that features modern music and dance moments as these two lovers connect and find everlasting together. I get motion-sickness while watching the movie due to the constantly moving camera.
The only version better than this is West Side Story that Leonard Bernstein created as a musical about New York City gangs. Dancing, singing, tragic knife fight. That’s romance.
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.
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