Déjà Vu: Motifs of Hitler in Richard III(1995) and How They Help Modern Audience to Understand Shakespeare’s Richard
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It is not terribly odd to see directors adapt Shakespearian plays to a different era. In fact, contemporary elements in films like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet and the most recent Much Ado About Nothing by Joss Whedon have definitely bring valuable new readings to the text. Embracing this trend, Richard III (1995) by Richard Loncraine shifts its background to 1930s Britain. Starring Ian McKellen as Richard, the movie makes an undeniable connection to Nazi Germany; very details include costume design, set and prop, and cinematography choices all closely relate Richard to Hitler, an equivalent villain from modern history. The choice of blending Hitler into Richard puts viewers now into the shoes of audience from Shakespeare’s time to better understand Richard’s evil; although Richard III is quite ancient, Hitler is still a new scar.
The déjà vu of Nazi dystopia becomes interesting when comparing the general background of the movie to the original play. Richard III (1995) came out during the last decade of twentieth century, which, for many individuals, was ten years of compounded fear; the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991 ruins the socialism faith in millions, whereas global economy tsunami in 1998 foils capitalism as troublesome too. For the worst part, rumors about the doomsday of 2000 remain haunted. This typical collective fear also deeply roots in England when Shakespeare creates Richard III: Elisabeth I was rapidly aging without any heir. In both cases, fear of social stability comes with no promised solution. Therefore, under similar circumstance, it is necessary to recall the living demons like Richard and Hitler to remind people the horror of war.
To start with, Richard and Hitler are such charismatic figures full ...
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...to help present audience better acknowledge Richard’s monstrous mind. Even McKellen himself admits that “Shakespeare is up to date. I don't think of him as an old playwright. […] Once you shift the costuming, you're just borrowing the period. […] We weren't pretending that Shakespeare had anticipated modern tyranny, but just saying that he would have understood it” (Crowdus, 47). There is definitely an
Indeed, Shakespearian classics are eternal because they are, like stories from Bible, stories about humanity. By stretching the motifs of Hitler into Richard, Loncraine and McKellen’s adaptation of Richard III in 1995 is mainly making efforts to make Richard more tangible that people could correlate to, for example, and digest Richard’s characteristics by hearing their grandparents talk about Hitler , like how audience in Shakespeare’s time hear about Richard III.