1) Shakespeare in the Movies
“Henry IV” (1945), “Hamlet” (1945), and “Richard III” (1945), directed by Laurence Olivier. Starring Laurence Olivier.
These three interpretations of Lawrence Olivier are universally considered both by audiences and critics the greatest cinematographic expressions of Shakespeare’s works, thanks to the exceptional skill of Lawrence Olivier, one of the strongest leading figures in British cinema who, incidentally, was accompanied by the best British actors in Shakespeare’s Plays. The text of Shakespeare was respected with philological rigor, and the same scene was deemed virtually perfect by any international criticism. For those who love Shakespeare’s Plays, these movies are a must see.
2) “Macbeth” and “Othello”
“Macbeth” (1948) and “Othello” (1952), directed and interpreted by Orson Welles, are two Shakespearian films strongly desired by the same Welles. He agreed to work in prohibitive conditions, with limited funds, improvised and always different troupes, and with little time available. The obstacles were overcome by the lively mind of Welles, who managed to achieve two significant works by the visual point of view, thanks to a clever work both on photography and on direction. Despite these difficulties, “Macbeth” and “Othello” unfolded two fascinating and very intense films in acting. It is interesting to note that Welles later told all his difficulties to realize these films in a documentary film, “Filming Othello,” produced by the same Orson in 1978.
3) “Romeo + Juliet” and “Richard III”
“Romeo + Juliet” by Baz Luhmann (1996), starring Leonardo DiCaprio is a movie where the text is that of Shakespeare’s tragedy, while the story is set in the United States, in a very colorful and fictional Verona Beach. It has been stressed that its post-modern scenography seems like a frivolous fashion show, while the film seems a long video clips in some respects, characterized by a frantic rhythm and a strong visual impact. “Richard III”, by Richard Loncraine (1996), was interpreted very loosely by the Director. The tragedy of Shakespeare was heavily reworked both in text and in the environment. The plot revolves around the 30s of the 20th century, with the detection of alienation effects.
4) Stanley Kubrickn’s Barry Lindon, 1975
“Barry Lindon,” by Stanley Kubrick (1975), starred by Ryan O’Neal, is set in England during the 18th century, and tells the story of an adventurer (both a spy and a compulsive gambler). The film is based on the novel by W. Makepeace Thackeray (born 1811) entitled “The Memoirs of Barry Lindon.” “Barry Lindon” provides a realistic portrait of 18th-century England. Kubrick used only natural light, while the actors’ costumes perfectly reflect the dress in England in the Eighteenth Century. The soundtrack is evocative and consists of a mix both of classical and 1700 English folk songs of various types, with exceptional realistic effects, whereby the viewer is immersed into the daily Life in Eighteenth-Century England. “Barry London” is a true Classic Film that can be appreciated by everyone.
For fans of the French Revolution, I suggest “Danton,” by Andrzej Wajda (1988) played in a truly superlative way by Gerard Depardieu. The film tells the dramatic conflict between two protagonists, Danton and Robespierre, in the period of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. The film is adapted from a play of the Polish writer Stanislawa Przybyszewska (died in 1995), “The Danton Affair.” Andrzej Wajda’s film had a great success with audiences and critics, because, metaphorically, it was referring to the difficult situation of Polish politics of the time, where the local Trade Union and the Catholic Church had conflictual relationship with the Communist regime of that time.
6) Rob Roy
The Eighteenth-Century England and popular environments are the absolute protagonists of a great movie by M. Caton-Jones, Rob Roy (1995), set in 18th-century England. The film has its setting in the Scottish Highlands, and the daring hero is Rob Roy (played by Liam Neeson). Rob Roy is considered by some a real bandit, while by others as a genuine hero of freedom, who fight against the injustices of a feudal power. Rob Roy is a film very spectacular with remarkable sequences, very fun and suitable for both children and adults. The scene is extremely accurate, and offers one the most popular images in understanding both the eighteenth-century English folk culture, and the living standards of the people, far from the lavish English court entertainments.