Unusual cinematic versions of Shakespeare's plays? (potential spoilers)

I’m flipping channels and come across the 1996 movie Romeo + Juliet. It takes the classic tragedy and sets it in modern times, but retains the original dialogue.

What are some other more unusual takes on the Bard’s plays?

Kenneth Branagh’s version of Love’s Labour’s Lost. Set in the 1930s, or 40s, I’m not sure, it was a musical with various period songs sung by the characters, and little bits of exposition given in newsreels.

Other than those bits - and the fact that parts were no doubt cut for time - the dialogue was intact from the play.

Arguably the best “unusual” version of Shakespeare was this film “Throne of Blood”

Set in medieval Japan, it’s the story of Macbeth retold. I saw it once, on television, a long time ago, and now I want to find out it’s availability on DVD. Kurosaw as director, Toshiro Mifune as the Macbeth character, it was superb. I’d still like to know how they did that arrow shooting scene. And you know, although it wasn’t Shakepseare’s dialogue, they followed the original very closely. About all they had to do was change a few names and such, the two cultures weren’t all that different.

How about Patrick Stewart as Othello, in an otherwise all-black cast? I’ve heard it’s a very good performance, but I’ve never seen it.

Not sure if this is what you are looking for but I found the movie Men of Respect an odd interpretation of Macbeth. Macbeth as a mob boss. It might not be what you meant because they didn’t use the language but followed the story. I think it would have been better if they had strayed more from the story. It was distracting to have characters named Bankie Como and Matt Duffy. We get it, it’s Macbeth.

That was a stage production. (Maybe they did film it; I’d love to see it if they did.) They called it ‘the photo-negative Othello.’

Orson Welles’s ‘voodoo’ Macbeth is very strange-looking. But if you want really weird adaptations, go for Julie Taymor’s Titus from 1999. It takes Titus Andronicus and seems to change historical settings at random.

Oh, one other. I haven’t seen this one - when we get Netflix, it may be my first pick - but there’s the recent Scotland, Pa. It’s Macbeth set in a Pennsylvania fast food restaurant in 1975. With Christopher Walken as Lt. MacDuff.

Prospero’s Books

It’s Shakespeare’s “the Tempest” as it might be interpreted by Allen Ginsberg whilst seriously blitz on orange sunshine LSD.

Plus, I can rock-solid guarantee that there will never be another Shakespeare film that features this much urine.

Then there is this version of Richard III. It is quite an interesting take on the play…

Absolutely. It’s astonishingly good. Might possibly be Walken’s best performance ever.

Also, don’t forget ‘10 Things I Hate About You’. I know many people dislike it but I found translating ‘Taming of the Shrew’ to a Seattle high school to be really entertaining. And using ‘I Want You to Want Me’ as the theme was inspired.

‘Twelfth Night’, the 1996 version with Helena Bonham Carter is very good as well. Set in the 1800s (give or take) it’s entertaining as all get out.

Hrm. There’s also a version of ‘Othello’ set in a southern academy somewhere. I haven’t seen it but it should have potential.

Oh, and NEVER forget ‘Atomic Shakespeare’ from Moonlighting.

In fact, here’s a list of Shakespeare and Movies.

Kurosawa’s Ran, and Patrick Stewart’s King of Texas, both versions of King Lear, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set in the 19th century.

For that matter, Branagh’s Hamlet was also set in the 19th century.

Orson Welle’s Othello is unusual. One scene was shot in a sauna because they didn’t have costuming yet.

The Forbidden Planet is said to be based on The Tempest.
It appears to be a STOS pilot. :slight_smile:

I thought the movie worked really well. I didn’t see th emovie in theatres and figured I’d hate it, but it’s actually quite good.

And you can’t forget the classic Moonlighting episode called Atomic Shakespeare.

Probably one of the funniest and best-loved of all the Moonlighting episodes. It’s the reason I will buy the seasons 3 and 4 DVD when it comes out.

Absolute classic.

[sub]OK, I know it’s the small screen, not a “cinematic” experience. You got a problem with that?[/sub]

The Lion King = Hamlet

This one gets my vote as strangest as well. Most people hate it, and nearly everyone else loved it. Me, I thought it was great. On the other hand, 10 Things I Hate About You is one of my favorite romantic comedies, so YMMV.

The Ethan Hawke version of Hamlet attempted the let’s-set-this-in-kinda-modern-times thing that Romeo + Juliet had going on, but it wasn’t nearly as successful. It’s one of the movies that taught me that movies that are delayed being put on DVD/Video might not be worth the anticipation.

Several years ago Christian Bale stared in a rather strange take on Hamlet called Royal Deceit (in the US. It’s also called Prince of Jutland). I don’t recall a lot from it, but it seemed to be set a few centuries before Hamlet typically is.

Are you thinking of O? I haven’t seen it, but it’s apparently Othello set in a high school with an all-teen cast.

There’s also the 2000 film version of Hamlet starring Ethan Hawke. It’s set in modern-day New York, and Claudius is the head of the Denmark Corporation. The actors use Shakespeare’s dialogue, but speak in their regular American accents and rhythms (which works better than I expected). I thought it was terrific; the updated script managed to incorporate technology and such in ingenious and appropriate ways. And Bill Murray as Polonius was genius casting.

The ending SUCKED, though. I was appalled at the changes they made.

(Curiously, both of these films starred Julia Stiles, as Desdemona and Ophelia, respectively.)

You’d need to know the play to get all the references but My Own Private Idaho with Keanu Reeves and River Pheonix is based on … damn I’m not sure… one of the Henry IV plays, probably part II. Tearaway son rebelling against his father, hanging out with an alternative fun father figure etc. An interesting film in itself but Shakespeare none the less.

O, the modern-day Othello starring Julia Stiles and Mekhi Phifer, is an excellent movie but doesn’t retain the original dialogue. Odin (Othello) and Hugo (Iago) are best friends in an elite Southern academy. But Hugo is resentful of the attention Odin, who’s a star basketball player, gets from everyone, and jealous over Odin’s new friend, Michael Cassio. Odin has fallen in love with the headmaster’s daughter, Desi. You know the story from there.

Julie Taymor’s Titus is another favorite of mine, it’s set in the mid 20th century in a universe where the Roman Empire never fell. The dialogue is retained, and much of the charm of the movie comes from the stylistic and visual elements, which are very beautiful and strange.

Richard III, starring Ian McKellen, is set around the 1930s, in an alternate, fascist Britain. It’s also very good.