This unique collection of early adaptations of Shakespeare works is accompanied by a new score specially commissioned from award-winning young composer, Laura Rossi.
In the early years of the 20th century the film industry sought to elevate its lowbrow status by imitating theatre. While cinemas decked themselves out like theatres, filmmakers signed up stage stars and turned to the classics. Shakespeare provided the greatest challenge, especially since many of the films made before the First World War were only one or two reels long.
The films you will see on this DVD are from the National Film and Television Archive Collection; they are; The Tempest (1908), King Lear (1910) A Midsummer Night's Dream (1909), Twelfth Night (1910), The Merchant of Venice (1910), Richard III (1911), and the first Shakespeare film ever made - King John (1899). Although the films are sometimes damaged they give us a unique record of a performance, together they show us the exuberance, invention ad conviction of these early filmmakers and demonstrate the possibilities of the Shakespearean text.
- Filmed introduction by Judith Buchanan
- Commentary by Judith Buchanan
UK, Italy, USA | 1899 - 1911 | black & white and tinted | 88 minutes | silent with music Ratio 1.33:1 | Region 2 DVD
'The BFI should be congratulated on this DVD. It provides a rare opportunity to see these beautiful early films which are now much too fragile to project.' --Martin Scorsese
'...an attractive collection with a vigorous Richard 111
from Sir Frank Benson and a charming five-minute version of The Tempest
' --Sir Richard Eyre