Movie Essays - Loncraine's Film Production of Shakespeare's Richard III

Movie Essays - Loncraine's Film Production of Shakespeare's Richard III

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Loncraine's Film Production of Shakespeare's Richard III


Loncraine's film brilliantly furthers Richard III's role as the diabolical genius. His use of economy and symbolism in portraying Richard gives completeness to the character that the text in some ways lacks. The short but intriguing stable scene in the film makes this clear.

The first thing I noticed about the stable scene in the film was the monochromatic color scheme. As Donaldson noted, the muted browns, grays, and beiges are reminiscent of the several death scenes. The colors befit the place where Richard meets Tyrrel, Clarence's murderer, and receives Tyrrel's vow of loyalty. Both characters' connections to the following death scene are foreshadowed by Loncraine's choice of color palate: Tyrrel as the murderer-for-hire, Richard as the instigator.

Richard's reaction toward the animals in the stable gives glimpses of insight into his character. For instance, seeing the boar in the pen initially amuses Richard. He sees Tyrrel feeding the boar, looking on approvingly. As Richard moves away from the boar's pen, Tyrrel tosses an apple to the man accompanying Richard in a quick gesture of recognition and camaraderie. Richard proceeds to gently feed the apple to a horse; this is a direct prediction of Richard's need for a horse in the final battle: "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" (V.iv.). Richard is feeding a useful and important animal, showing more sympathy and care than he does for the rest of the humans in the film.

Conversely, Richard throws his apple at the boar after discerning Tyrrel's loyalty. The boar serves two purposes in the scene; it is both more useful when it is not alive (as food), and a symbol of Richard's family (Richard's crest contains the image of a boar, and Richard himself is often referred to as a boar in the text). Richard obviously has more use for the horse than he does the boar, alluding to his value of a creature or character based on its usefulness-he is quick to kill anything or anyone he finds opposing or challenging him. This includes his family, which is the boar's symbolic purpose. The boar, though penned and harmless, becomes the target of Richard's sadistic desire to bring harm to those around him. In the same way, Richard designs schemes to injure his family members for the more useful goal of gaining kingship. His family is no good to him while they are alive; they are more useful when they are dead and out of his way.

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Even more significant is the juxtaposition of Tyrrel in the film. In the text he appears in Act IV, scene ii. In the film, he appears before Clarence's murder. In a following scene, the two murderers come to Richard to receive the warrant. Tyrrel is one of the murderers, rather than a third murderer hired later in the play to kill the two princes. This shows Richard's increased efficiency in the film for executing his evil plans. The Richard in the text seems to either forget the two murderers he had previously hired, or have a desire to corrupt as many people as possible in his dealings. The question of why he does this is eliminated in the film by Loncraine's use of Tyrrel as one of Clarence's two murderers.

Another interesting distinction is the number of lines cut from the text in the film. In the stable scene alone, twenty-four and one half lines are cut between Richard's "I partly know the man" (l. 41a) and his question to Tyrrel: "Is thy name Tyrrel?" (l. 65). This makes sense in light of the juxtaposition of scenes, because the other events in Act IV, scene ii have not happened yet in the film. However, I think it is another example of the film Richard's economy and efficiency. He does not use more words than he needs to make himself clear, at least when dealing with other people. (When talking to himself or to us, Richard does wax verbose.)

These aspects of Richard's demonic character are captured perfectly in this short, 54-second scene. We not only get a sense of Richard's cruelty and mercilessness toward his kin and himself, but also a sense of his economy and efficiency. We also see his connection to the death scenes Loncraine so loves to render on film. In all, the film brilliantly adapts a brutal and horrid character for the big screen.
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