Film festival celebrates Shakespeare

The College will host a free Shakespearean film festival that will highlight three diverse big-screen adaptations of the Bard's classic works.

"Shakespeare on Screen: Great Adaptations" will occur on Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3 in Burns Wellness Commons Room 249 (lecture auditorium).

The festival begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2 with a screening of "Chimes at Midnight," to be introduced by Nathan Carroll, associate professor of film studies in the College's Department of Communication, Theatre and Art.

Directed by Orson Welles of "Citizen Kane" fame, "Chimes at Midnight" remained largely unseen by American audiences until it was restored and re-released in August 2016. The film pieces together several of Shakespeare's plays, and Welles transforms the minor comic character of Sir John Falstaff into a major tragic hero. Without adding extra dialogue, Welles remixed and reimagined a new Shakespearean narrative featuring Falstaff at the center. Made in Spain on a low independent budget, the film stars Welles as Falstaff. This was the Shakespeare role Welles loved playing most, and as a director, "Chimes at Midnight" was his favorite film.

The screenings on Saturday, Dec. 3, start at 1 p.m. with director Akira Kurosawa's 1957 take on "Macbeth," "Throne of Blood." It will be introduced by Tammy Ostrander, dean of the School of Arts and Letters.

Kurosawa transposes "Macbeth" into feudal Japan. Fascinated by Western culture, he embraced Shakespeare by adapting and re-staging plays in Samurai settings. Unlike his later adaptation of "King Lear" in "Ran" (1985), "Throne of Blood" resets the Macbeth narrative in black and white at a castle on foggy Mount Fuji. Kurosawa's staging strategically invokes Noh theatre, a major form of ancient classical Japanese musical drama, as an adaptive lens for the play. By dislocating cultural elements through innovative staging, Kurosawa exposes the universal themes of "Macbeth."

At 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, English Professor Tom Zelman will introduce the final presentation, 1989's "Henry V" starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Along with Welles, Kurosawa and Laurence Olivier, actor/director Branagh has adapted several of Shakespeare's plays to screen including "Hamlet" and "Much Ado About Nothing." However, Branagh's first Shakespearean adaptation for film (and first directing job) was this acclaimed 1989 version of "Henry V." In contrast to Olivier's spectacular 1944 Technicolor adaptation, Branagh's version is human and realistic, relatable and gritty. Like Olivier and Welles before him, Branagh both acts in and directs this updated version, which remains a benchmark reminder of Shakespeare's renewable value through great adaptations.

All films will be screened digitally. Admission is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be provided. The event is sponsored by St. Scholastica's Department of Communication, Theatre and Art, the School of Arts and Letters, St. Scholastica Library and the Honors Program.