Shakespeare on Film

Shakespeare on Film

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Kenneth Branagh as Henry V

Kenneth Branagh as Henry V


To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, in association with The University of Melbourne is p...


To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, in association with The University of Melbourne is presenting Shakespeare on Film from July 14 - 26.

The international touring program from the British Council and the British Film Institute (BFI) explores the deep affinity between cinema and The Bard and features 11 films including three special presentations: Play On! (Silent Shakespeare), a compilation of silent Shakespeare shorts with a newly commissioned score by award-winning young composer Laura Rossi and performed by the Globe musicians, an exclusive on-stage discussion between Ian McKellen and Richard Loncraine recorded at BFI Southbank in April 2016 to follow each screening of the digitally restored Richard III, and a post screening Skype Q&A with Macbeth Director Justin Kurzel on July 16.

With so much high drama, history and romance, it’s little wonder that William Shakespeare is credited with more film adaptations that any other writer. His influence of cinema is profound, while cinema has wholly transformed access to his work.

The enduring love for Shakespeare in the modern theatre of cinema ranges from Derek Jarman by way of Vincent Price, to Kenneth Branagh. The films in the season range from titles for literary fans (e.g. Henry V, Kenneth Brannagh, 1989) to cult cinephiles (e.g.Theatre of Blood, Douglas Hickox, 1973) and everyone in between.

A selection of the films will also be accompanied by introductions from key University of Melbourne faculty and visiting academics including Dr David McInnis the Gerry Higgins Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies, Dr Mark Nicholls from Screen and Cultural Studies, Dr Joe Hughes from English and Theatre Studies, and Dr Miriam Nicholls from Trinity College and more.

Richard III M

Includes exclusive interview with Ian McKellen and Richard Loncraine recorded at BFI Southbank in April 2016

July 14 and 21

Sir Ian McKellen leads an all-star cast in Richard Loncraine’s stunning adaptation of Richard III. A bold reimagining of Shakespeare’s murderous, scheming king, Loncraine transplants Shakespeare’s bloody play to an alternative fascist England of the 1930’s in the midst of a civil war between the house of York and Lancaster. This fresh and highly entertaining take on one of Shakespeare’s most duplicitous characters combines heady doses of spectacle, melodrama and tragedy.

The screening is followed by a post-film discussion with its screenwriter and star, Ian McKellen, and its director, Richard Loncraine, recorded at BFI Southbank in April 2016.

Theatre of Blood M

July 15

Vincent Price and Dianna Rigg star as a hilariously ghoulish father and daughter hell-bent on Shakespearian themed revenge in this camp comedic-horror film. Edward Lionheart (Price) is primed to accept his hard-earned prize for actor of the year at the annual awards but the snide critics circle have other ideas. After a humiliating loss to a relative newcomer, Lionheart plots a series of vengeful dishes of epic Shakespearian proportions.

Romeo and Juliet PG

July 16 and 21

Italian director, Franco Zeffirelli’s adaptation of forbidden passion is one of the most well-known and loved filmic adaptations of Shakespeare. Lavishly staged and full of beauty, the director famously cast virtual unknowns, Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey in the lead roles. Unlike previous incarnations of the play, Zeferelli’s Romeo and Juliet were actual teenagers, making the emotional stakes all the more visceral for audiences.

Both sessions will be introduced by Dr Kathy Kasapidis, Trinity College, University of Melbourne.

Henry V PG

July 19 and 23

Kenneth Branagh in his debut as director had a big challenge in trying to match Lawrence Olivier’s 1944 celebrated screen version of Henry V. With handsome set pieces and accomplished performances Branagh wildly succeeds in bringing to life Shakespeare’s historical text on the young King Henry V’s victory over the French at the battle of Agincourt. Branagh who took on acting and directing duties here, towers in a career best performance, while strongly supported by a stellar British cast including, Emma Thompson, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi and Paul Scofield.

The Angelic Conversation PG

Includes an introduction from Dr Joe Hughes

July 17

Intense, dreamlike and poetic, The Angelic Conversation is one of the most artistic films from celebrated British artist filmmaker, Derek Jarman (Caravaggio, Jubilee, Sebastiane). Jarman freely interprets this series of Shakespearian sonnets, envisioning them as paean to homosexual love and desire. Narrated by Judi Dench, the beauty of the fourteen love poems melt into Jarman’s freeform, painterly visions shot on super-8.

The film will be introduced by Dr Joe Hughes, a Senior Lecturer in English and Theatre Studies at the University of Melbourne.

Hamlet G

Includes introductions by Dr David McInnis on July 20, and Dr Mark Nicholls on July 22.

July 20 and 22

Winner of four Academy Awards, Lawrence Olivier’s take as the Danish Prince with a guilty conscious and a serious case of the blues is considered by many as the version that other actors must measure their performances against. This classic tale of retribution spins a bloody tale of revenge as the Prince is goaded into assassinating his duplicitous Uncle Claudius by the ghost of his father, King Hamlet. One of Shakespeare’s most well know and oft quoted play’s outside of Macbeth, Olivier brings a palatable sense of forlorn and dread to Hamlet’s now famous ’To Be or Not to Be?’ soliloquy.

Play On! (Silent Shakespeare) Unclassified 15+

Includes introduction by Dr Gayle Allan

July 17 and 23

A compilation of silent Shakespeare shorts with a newly commissioned score by award-winning young composer Laura Rossi, performed by The Globe Players. The seven films in this unique collection – from Britain, Italy and the USA – are created from the only known surviving materials, nitrate prints preserved by the British Film Institute’s National Archive. They include beautiful examples of hand stencilling and tinted prints. There is a magical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream containing some remarkable special effects, a charming five-minute film of The Tempest, and the very first Shakespeare film ever made, King John, in 1899.

The film will be introduced by Dr Gayle Allan, Associate Dean at the Residential College, Trinity College (University of Melbourne). Gayle’s research interests include Shakespeare and early modern drama, film and adaptation theory.

Featured silent films:

King John (UK, 1899)

The Tempest (UK, 1908)

A Midsummer Night's Dream (USA, 1909)

King Lear (Italy, 1910)

Twelfth Night (USA, 1910)

The Merchant of Venice (Italy, 1910)

Richard III (UK, 1911)

Macbeth MA 15+

Includes live Skype with AFI-winning Director Justin Kurzel on 16 July and an introduction by Dr David McInnis on 24 July

July 16 and 24

Steeped in treachery, magic and bloody revenge, Shakespeare’s Macbeth tells the tale of a couple who are beset by grief and driven to madness in their pursuit of power. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard lead an impressive cast in Australian director Justin Kurzel’s (Snowtown) ambitious and visually spectacular update of the Shakespearian classic.

On July 24 the film will be introduced by Dr David McInnis, University of Melbourne English and Theatre faculty member.

Much Ado About Nothing PG

Includes an introduction by Dr Miriam Nicholls

July 15 and 24

Arguably one of the best Shakespearian adaptations ever filmed, this witty and fast-paced version of Much Ado About Nothing is a testament to Kenneth Branagh’s extensive creative abilities. Branagh, along with co-star and writer Emma Thompson inject a youthful energy into this tale of two sets of lovers, one young and madly in love but threatened by meddling outsiders and the other old sparring partners whose barbed quips barely hide their mutual attraction.

Both sessions will be introduced by Dr Miriam Nicholls, Lecturer in Literature at Trinity College at the University of Melbourne with expertise in early modern drama.


July 17 and 22

William ‘Bill’ Shakespeare (Matthew Baynton) leaves his home and family in Stratford to find fame and fortune as a playwright in Elizabethan London, but don’t be fooled, this is no ordinary telling of the history of England - especially when told by the stars from Horrible Histories!

Kiss Me Kate G

July 18 and 26

Transplanting Shakespeare’s odd couple romance The Taming of the Shrew into the world of Broadway in the 1950’s pays great dividends in this charming comedy that makes great use of its sparing lovers and its mob tinged backstage high jinx. Starring Howard Keel and Kathyrn Grayson as the substitute Petruchio and Katherine and an unforgettable music and lyrics by Cole Porter, this is a delight from start to finish.