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98 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laughter, Tears, and the Rain It Raineth Every Day!
If this "Twelfth Night" is not the definitive "Twelfth Night," it comes close. Under the guidance of director Trevor Nunn, the superb cast plays Shakespeare not only for laughs but also for the dark pathos that underlies the comedy, as is evident in Feste's song, "Come away, come away death, and in sad cypress let me be laid." Ben Kingsley portrays Shakespeare's enigmatic...
Published on 18 Oct 2005 by F. S. L'hoir

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrible quality....
The picture quaity of this dvd movie is so low that it is comparable to Super 8 movies almost.
I could barely stand watching it....

The actual movie is really good though, and it's a shame nobody has adapted this to blu-ray, or at least a better dvd version.

So, avoid, unless you absolutely must have everything ever put on film from Shakespeares...
Published 2 months ago by Brannstrom Goran


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98 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laughter, Tears, and the Rain It Raineth Every Day!, 18 Oct 2005
By 
F. S. L'hoir (Irvine, CA) - See all my reviews
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If this "Twelfth Night" is not the definitive "Twelfth Night," it comes close. Under the guidance of director Trevor Nunn, the superb cast plays Shakespeare not only for laughs but also for the dark pathos that underlies the comedy, as is evident in Feste's song, "Come away, come away death, and in sad cypress let me be laid." Ben Kingsley portrays Shakespeare's enigmatic clown, whose rendition of the charming, but usually conventional, "O mistress mine, where are you roaming?," is tinged with a tragic undertone. It not only complements the love-sick Duke Orsino's lament, "If music be the food of love, play on," but, as its last strains linger in the air, it suffuses its listeners with an inexpressible sadness. It is as if, with the final notes, the hitherto roistering Maria, Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew, have become painfully aware of the ephemeral nature of life.
Imogen Stubbs is a delightful (and plausibly male) Viola, disguised as Cesario, who must act as a go-between for Orsino (an incredibly handsome Toby Stephens) and Olivia (Helena Bonham-Carter, who looks as if she has stepped out of a pre-Raphaelite painting). The scenes between Viola and Orsino, as she is falling in love with him and he is most definitely attracted to his young "man" and emissary, are fraught with an almost palpable sexual tension, which Nunn's direction nevertheless conveys with subtle artistry (A similar dynamic may well have been present in the original production when the audience knew that a boy was playing the part of a girl playing the part of a boy.). Viola and her twin brother Sebastian look reasonably enough alike so that the audience can easily suspend its disbelief and, along with the characters, enjoy the confusion about "Which one is Sebastian?."
The production is reinforced by an ensemble cast. Nigel Hawthorne's pompous yet vulnerable Malvolio has the viewer laughing at one moment and crying at the next. The cruel pranks of Maria (Imelda Staunton), Sir Toby Belch (Mel Smith), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Richard E. Grant) and Feste, the clown, bring Malvolio deservedly low, but as he leaves the household and his tormenters forever, the audience realizes that the comic conspirators may have humiliated him, but they have not robbed him of his dignity. Malvolio's exit is followed by the departure of the brooding Feste, who, "with a hey, ho, and the wind and the rain," strolls along the edge of a cliff above the shore. As he gazes out over the restless sea, he seems to be seeing beyond the play's comic narrative frame into the reality of a future that is ineffably dark.
Nunn's "Twelfth Night" is fast-moving and suspenseful, even if one has seen the play dozens of times. There are so many delightful moments that it is difficult to single one out, but the duel in the orchard between the terrified Viola and the equally frantic Sir Andrew is hysterically funny. The Cornish settings make for a stunning "Illyria." And since the audience is readily transported to that fantastic country, the pre-Raphaelite / Ruritanian costumes and settings do not spoil the illusion.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 25 Nov 2005
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This review is from: Twelfth Night [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
There have been many great Shakespeare drama adaptations, but Trevor Nunn's Twelfth Night is outstanding even among the greatest. It is wonderful how sensitively and excitingly he handles the issue of identity (girl disguising herself as a boy) and identification (male-female twins)problems.
The major character is Viola, who after losing her twin brother (played by Stephen Mackintosh very convincingly), is forced to disguise herself as a boy to survive in a strange and hostile land (namely Illyria which is at war with her home county, Messaline). The introductory scenes (not included in the drama) showing how brother and sister, sharing a strong bond of affection, lose each other, how dangerous it is for a citizen of Messaline to set foot in Illiyra and how Viola is transformed into a boy give the story a very good frame. The scenes where Viola is being transformed are great, showing how sensitive this girl is, how difficult it is for her to pretend, yet she musters all her courage to hide her pain over the supposed death of her brother. But struggles are not over as she also has to hide her passionate love from Orsino, the Duke of Illyira whom she serves.
Her position is twofold difficult: she soon becomes Orsino's confident, they get really close to each other so she finds more and more difficult to hide her feelings from him; but to ease Orsino's sufferings, she undertakes to act as a "courier" for pursuing his hopeless love, the Countess Olivia.
Then comes another Shakespearean turn of the screw: Olivia, who won't hear of Orsino's passion, falls for Cesario/Viola. In the meantime, Sebastian, thinking her beloved sister, Viola is dead, sets for Illyria as well ...
As it is a comedy all things messed up will sort themselves out at the end, however, this is not a light comedy, the shadow of the tragic is hovering over the whole drama shaped in one of the subplots. The whole film seems to balance at the very narrow edge of tragedy and comedy all the time despite the many hilarious moments.
The most wonderful scenes are the ones of Cesario/Viola and the Duke Orsino (a very sexy Toby Stephens)being together. Nunn is actually showing the emotional and subtle sexual attraction the Duke feels for his "manservant". Absolutely brilliant!
Imogen Stubbs personificates Viola superbly: an upright woman, who, despite the disguise she is forced to wear, is the most honest of all, especially compared to the characters of Orsino and Oliva, both of whom are deluding themselves by imaginary feelings.
The whole cast is wonderful from Helena Bonham-Carter to Ben Kingsley. Music and costume all fit in amazingly with the whole atmosphere of the drama.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth watching, 10 Jan 2007
By 
D. Sharahi (South of England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Twelfth Night [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
I have fifty English pounds and a stunning cast that could perform any Shakespearean play. Let's make a film! This could easily explain the reason Trevor Nunn has brought Shakespeare's Twelfth Night to the big screen. Only his third attempt at directing film; credit where credit is due, Nunn has succeeded in providing a simple but effective adaptation of the original text.

A miniscule budget and distinct lack of cinematic devices (although bestowed with Cornwall's magnificent scenery) suggests a dismal hope of a box office smash. However, that does not mean that Twelfth Night is not worth watching. Whilst it relies heavily on the comic aspects within the original text, it therefore provides an informative insight to themes and characterisation. Yet Nunn cannot be accused of being nave to the demands of a modern audience, shaping Shakespeare's lines to lacerate callously, invoking eminent and prevailing emotion. Nunn has far from rejected the play's evident connotations to `Comedy of Errors', revelling in slapstick comedy and mistaken identity. Twelfth Night pursues the tale of two mixed-sex twins, separated in a dramatic shipwreck both assume the other has perished. When Viola adorns her brother's persona for better protection all sorts of mayhem and foibles transgress as fate draws them back together.

Nunn's decision to set the film in the 1890's is the most peculiar aspect of the film, although the Merchant's costume suggests subtle connotations towards the Boer War. The other period dress, incredibly, succeeds as a composition. Nunn has not attempted a completely contemporary approach but has implied that Shakespeare's words are still prominent throughout history.

The truly gritty, dark and intense approach to the text, especially regarding the camera shots (close-ups are utilised particularly efficiently) and cinematography, is compounded by what can only be described as a brilliant and radiant cast. Even the smaller roles are played with a conviction that would make any production team proud. Maria's (Ismelda Staunton) understated role provides a sense of humanity through desire to the character of Sir Toby that would otherwise be lost. Richard. E. Grant in the role of Sir Aguecheek devises a suave chemistry between himself and Mel Smith (as Sir Toby) that propels them into the realm of comedy duo genius, reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy's interaction and physical appearance.

Imogen Stubbs is indisputably enchanting as Viola and compared to the pastel, youthful complexion of Sebastian (Steven Mackintosh) plausibly achieves the transition between genders. Nunn excels himself by including the palpable sexual tension between the dashing Duke Orsino (Toby Stephens) and his manservant Cesario, the skilfully disguised Viola. Using composition close-ups that provide an intensity and realism that only enhance the virtuosity of Shakespeare's lines. Olivia (Helena Bonham Carter who looks as though she has just stepped out of a Rossetti painting) brings innocence and poignancy to her unfeasible desire for Cesario. Tearing the audience between comedy and tragedy, her desperation for love emphasises how the play itself totters precariously on the edge of disaster.

The complexity of the situation is developed by the sinister element of humour established by Sir Toby, Sir Aguecheek and Maria as they deservedly exploit Malvolio's flaws as an avaricious, ambitious character. However, Nigel Hawthorne's (Malvolio) mesmerising portrayal of a pompous yet vulnerable character, invokes pathos amongst the audience. As he leaves the court forever, it provides a poignant and unbalanced end; Nunn's directing highlights the events have not resulted in opulence for all.

Feste is particularly evocative as the anarchic, idiosyncratic but wise fool present in a number of Shakespeare's works. Ben Kingsley immerses himself in the role, creating a superiority that scorns the other actors, adding a dimension and theme of observation to the film. His contribution to the music ergo, rhythm the scenes in which he is present is another reason his performance stands out. Interchanging between diegetic and non-diegetic songs, his melancholy but seductive voice is an aural delicacy. Sound, plays a crucial part in this adaptation of Twelfth Night and Nunn's awareness of production elements is startlingly clear. As Viola is scrambling ashore, the disjointed arpeggio as the keys of the piano are swept aground is symbolic of the confusion and distress that is exuded from her character.

Renaissance Films have undoubtedly spent far less than on other Shakespearean adaptations (for example, Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing) but should be exceptionally satisfied with Trevor Nunn's original and considered approach to such a vastly well-known and undeniably daunting comedy. The film is one of elegance and dignity (produced without bias or agenda) and at no point degrades itself for cheap laughs or sympathetic humour but retains confidence in the lines and this is something that makes it stand out amongst many.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this is a glorious production, 18 Oct 2006
By 
dr ian (london, uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Twelfth Night [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
the comedy is funny: the romantic scenes are moving: the shipwreck is scary...

trevor nunn's movie is a great translation into film. film's capacity for clear story telling makes this more realistic and believable than shakespeare's gender-confused comedies can sometimes seem.

and the realism only seems to highlight shakespeare's magic: the dialogue is laugh out loud funny: the scenes between imogen stubbs androgynous viola and helena bonham carter's gorgeous olivia take your breath away; the dialogue between toby belch and malvolio bring a darker, crueller comedy. ben kingsley's feste has the magical, anarchic quality of the wise fool, and the gender mix-ups are just a wee bit transgressive.

an outstanding, intelligent, humane, and above all funny production of this great comedy.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surpassing Glory, 28 Sep 2003
By A Customer
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This review is from: Twelfth Night [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
I saw Trevor Nunn's Twelfth Night for the first time last night, on wide-screen DVD by the way, and I have never seen a film more beautiful. I don't know which to praise most - the cast, the acting, the settings and camera-work, the exquisite music or the play itself! It is pure magic from start to finish and I can't wait to see it again - truly an inspiring masterpiece and a delight for the senses. Compared to this film Hollywood blockbusters fade into tawdry insignificance.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simply magical, 11 July 2007
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This review is from: Twelfth Night [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
--spoilers----

Never before have I been *so* excited by a Shakespeare play although I love his plays. I always used to think, from the productions I'd seen of Twelfth Night, that Orsino's decision to marry the newly revealed Viola was just a bit too passionless and convenient - as though Viola would "do" since Olivia was no longer available. It just goes to show that none of those other productions had managed to project what Trevor Nunn and the splendid line up of actors give us in this masterly version. The actors for Viola and Sebastian are so well matched that they really do look related if not identical in features and Viola makes a very convincing young man. I've never liked Helena Bonham Carter more than in this movie - she's just perfect as Olivia. The same for Richard E.Grant, and all the others, except I wondered if Malvolio isn't just a little less irritating than he should be so we are more sorry for him than we should be at the end. As for Toby Stephens as Orsino, well I was transfixed. The Duke was always my favourite character in this story and Stephens has him absolutely perfect with all the dark undertones and his melancholy frustrations along with Viola's powering this aspect of the story.

This movie should be shown to all schools along with Branagh's Much Ado which is almost as good, and surely then pupils would be demanding Shakespeare instead of apparently being put off it by teachers not wanting to teach it or whatever reason it is they have these days for avoiding it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Shakespearean, 23 Feb 2012
By 
M. Williamson (Barnet, Herts. UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Twelfth Night [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
Superbly cast and brilliantly directed by Trevor Nunn (NOT "Helena Bonham Carter"!), this works brilliantly for both Shakespeare addicts and those new to his plays. While there's perhaps a little TOO much riding backwards and forwards between the households, the characterisation is faultless. Helena B-C is delightful as the young woman slowly emerging from her self-indulgent grieving, and it's a pleasure to see Olivia played as someone the same age (-ish) as Cesario, instead of the usual stately aristocrat, while Imogen Stubbs is moving as the unselfish Viola, forced to woo on behalf of the man she herself loves. Ben Kingsley is superb as Feste, not just because of his beautiful singing, but also for his ability to gaze silently into the camera while we try to guess at his thoughts; and Nigel Hawthorn's ever-so-slightly skewed vowels brilliantly suggest the social climber who isn't quite as secure in his aspirations as he'd like to be. The whole cast is flawless; and best of all is the final recognition scene, when Viola and Sebastian are at last reunited: Trevor Nunn's expert pacing of this makes for a heart-stopping climax. I can watch this again and again.
Marianne W
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does it justice., 26 July 2007
By 
Jen (British Isles) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Twelfth Night [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
Having loved the play studying it for A Level, I wasn't sure if this version would enhance my fondness for it or tear it to shreds... Thankfully, it was superb: the acting was excellent all round, the period setting worked well - in being vaguely ambiguous - and the suspense and surprise were still there (even after copious watching!). Nigel Hawthorne, Mel Smith (the comedy aspects were excellent and Helena Bonham-Carter were particularly good.
However, I really wanted to mention Feste: always my favourite character (at the centre of my A Level work), I thought Kingsley was the perfect choice for the part, and captured it brilliantly: the songs in particular were even adaptations of the originals, and were performed just as they should have been. Feste's the bittersweet part of Twelfth Night (itself a very bittersweet play, when you look at it), and that did come through.

The ending is the best bit - you just want to follow Feste into the distance as everyone else has their happy (or at least resolved) ending...
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling performance (but pump up the volume)..., 18 Feb 2002
This review is from: Twelfth Night [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is not the most famous of his plays, and frankly, the story-line is a bit stretched : a love-sick Duke pursues a Countess who has vowed to cloister herself and the Countess falls madly in love with the Duke's servant (a shipwrecked girl made out to be a man). Meanwhile, the servant has fallen in love with the Duke (and her identical twin brother is roaming somewhere in the neighbourhood...). Only Shakespeare can get away with this. The costumes in this version are set at the beginning of the 20th century : at times hideous but don't let this get to you. The acting is superb. Nigel Hawthorne gives a wonderful Malvolio and Ben Kingsley's Feste is wonderfully subdued. The whole cast is stunning. Just two minor flaws in the DVD version (hardly noticed) and please, pump up the volume! Putting subtitles in foreign languages would also be much appreciated so as to bring this DVD to a wider audience.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING!, 14 Oct 2000
This was simply wonderful production. The coast of Illryia beautifully portrayed as the Cornish coast, and acting that catches every subtlety, finery and grain of wit that Shakespeare wrote.
The performance by Imogen Stubbs (Viola / Cesario) was wonderful. Such fine diction and catching every facet of this diamond of a character.
I am usually a great fan of the Kenneth Brannagh Shakespeare's but I rate this over his production. Stunning direction by Trevor Nunn; despite is recent mess ups at the RSC!
Well, if you want to see a great film full of emotional turmiol, amazing happenings, wit and dramatic irony by the bucket loads then this is the one!
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Twelfth Night [DVD] [1996]
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