Contemporary re-working of the Shakespeare’s problem play set in the british army.
Director: Bob Komar
Review: Rare Adaptation is Thoughtful and Passionate;
22 October 2007 | by Bologna King
Measure for Measure is one of Will Shakespeare’s unknown treasures, so anyone who would even attempt a screen adaptation deserves our applause. The more so when, as here, the effort is reasonably successful.
The screenplay, all Shakespeare (although not all Measure for Measure–there is a brief dialogue borrowed from Romeo and Juliet) cuts away the diversions from the main plot, which unfortunately means that we lose most of the comic relief. Everything needed to understand the story is there, however, and it gets more punch from being less long-winded. The focus on the main plot means that there is little to divert us from the main characters. Isabelle is extremely well-played by Josephine Rogers, full of inflexible moral outrage both at Angelo and at Claudio; so much so that we are the more surprised when she bends at the end. Daniel Roberts’ Angelo captures both his priggish exterior and tortured interior. Most interesting is the Duke (Simon Phillips) who is clearly shown at the beginning to be as corrupt and licentious as his subordinates. His objective in seeking reform is therefore clouded with hypocrisy, a fact which dogs him to the end, making the ending unsatisfying even when it is conventional, both to the characters and the viewer.
The supporting cast is mostly solid, although the actress playing Marianna is apparently Swedish and is hard to understand both due to her accent and her wooden performance. Her makeup is also bizarrely overstated, to the extent that she might have been intended to be a goth, but no explanation is given for why she might be Gothic.
Makeup is a recurring problem. Just about everyone looks unhealthily pale and Claudio in prison is the strangest of all, having cherry-red blood smears on his pasty white face. About the only time light and makeup get together is when Isabelle in the convent receives Lucio’s plea to help Claudio. The brown and gold tones of the wooden background are nicely mirrored in Isabelle’s skin tones.
Perhaps the unhealthy pallor is to underline everyone’s unhealthy lifestyle.
The setting at a modern army base is intriguing, and perhaps was chosen to contrast a lack of discipline with an institution in which discipline is traditional and important. However, Shakespeare’s setting in a red light district made the depravity seem natural whereas here it was a bit strained.
Thoughtfully written and directed, and acted with passion. It’s worth a look if you can find it.