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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Twelfth Night / Macbeth (2003 / 1998)

"Why, 'Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.'"
- Feste (Zubin Varla)

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: January 03, 2005

Stars: Parminder Nagra, Sean Pertwee, Greta Scacchi
Other Stars: Ronny Jhutti, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Burt Caesar, Claire Price, Andrew Kazamia, Zubin Varla, Michael Maloney, Maureen Beattie, Lesley Joseph, Loren Bent, Denise Black, Philip Madoc, Jack Davenport, Lorcan Cranitch, Ruth Gemmell
Director: Tim Supple, Michael Bogdanov

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, sexual innuendos, brief nudity in Twelfth Night)
Run Time: 03h:10m:22s
Release Date: January 04, 2005
UPC: 037429203521
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ B-B-C+ D-

DVD Review

Shakespeare's plays have been performed for the past 400 years in a variety of forums, utilizing different techniques to realize the Bard's genius. It's a credit to his marvelous, God-like literature that his work is still being performed on a regular basis all around the world. However, no matter what corner of the globe Shakespeare's work is performed in, it will always feel most at home in the comfort of England. The British stage may be the purist's preferred venue, but British television offers up some more contemporary settings for Twelfth Night and Macbeth.

"Fate, show thy force. Ourselves we do not owe. What is decreed must be and be this so." -Viola

Twelfth Night
2003
01h:42m:27s

The Elizabethan equivalent of Tootsie is categorized as a comedy, but it is layered with sorrow. A young woman, Viola (Parminder Nagra), survives a shipwreck and arrives in the fictional land of Illyria. She finds favor with Orsino (Chiwetel Ejiofor), but is disguised as man in order to obtain her job as his confidant. Despite her love for Orsino, Viola, under the pseudonym "Cesario", attempts to sway the grieving Olivia (Claire Price) into marrying Orsino. Meanwhile, Viola's brother, Sebastian (Ronny Jhutti), has survived the shipwreck unbeknownst to her and is working with a pirate to find his lost sister. There's also mischief in Olivia's court thanks to the drunken Lord Antonio (Andrew Kazamia), his followers, and the wise fool, Feste (Zubin Varla).

To explain the intricacies of this plot would spoil the thrill of viewing, or reading, Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, or What You Will. It certainly is not his best piece of writing, but director Tim Supple gives a surprisingly strong telling of the story. Apart from a few lines of dialogue that suggest a bygone era, the play fits remarkably well into the modern day world. A rather odd choice, however, is making this a multicultural tale. Viola and Sebastian are Indian, Orsino is black, and the rest of the cast is white. Certainly this is not distracting to the play, but it doesn't add anything new to it either. It seems that this may be a missed opportunity at taking Twelfth Night into a new direction.

Director Supple does a nice job of making Shakespeare's material cinematic, thereby avoiding the common staged feeling often associated with film adaptations of plays. The camera moves around just enough to help the story along, but not so much as to be distracting. Also making this version a pleasant surprise are the strong performances. Each actor, particularly Zubin Varla as Feste, does a nice job of portraying their character accurately and avoids the trap of giving a theatrical performance. Parminder Nagra (best known for her role in Bend It Like Beckham) gives easily the best performance of Viola shown on screen (though, admittedly, there isn't a lot of competition).

This is not Shakespeare's best play; nonetheless, the work here is well worth a viewing.

Style Grade: B
Substance Grade: B



"By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes." -Second Witch (Loren Bent)

Macbeth
1998
01h:27m:55s

Twelfth Night may be viewed as "Shakespeare Light," but Macbeth certainly cannot. Never before or since this play's conception has anyone been able to articulate man's descent into evil with more beauty, heart, intelligence, or grim understanding of the tragedy of mankind's fall from grace. Many great filmmakers have sought to realize this play, the shortest and perhaps most violent of Shakespeare's works, but none more successfully than Roman Polanski when he treated the material in 1971. Considering his accomplishment, this new version has its work cut out for it and fails to deliver in any regard.

The story is one of the most famous in the world today. Macbeth (Sean Pertwee) is heroic in battle for King Duncan (Philip Madoc). However, his Lady (Greta Scacchi) encourages his lust for power by pushing him forward on a plan to assassinate Duncan. Three witches (Lesley Joseph, Loren Bent, and Denise Black) foresee all of this and also give Macbeth prophecies of his own demise. Fearing his enemies, Macbeth acts swiftly and violently to eradicate Banquo (Michael Maloney) and Macduff (Lorcan Cranitch). His attempts are only partly successful, leaving room for the witches' prophecies to be fulfilled.

This version, under the direction of Michael Bogdanov, is certainly watchable thanks to its amazing source material. However, the decision to move the story from its medieval period into a post-apocalyptic Scotland is disastrous. If the filmmakers wanted to use The Tragedy of Macbeth as a source of inspiration for a post-apocalyptic film, that certainly would be useful. Sadly, the beautiful language feels completely out of place in the urban war zone depicted on screen. Even more annoying is the musical score by Tot Taylor, which comes across as a mixture of Kylie Minogue and a porno soundtrack.

These flaws may be forgivable if the acting was topnotch, but unlike Twelfth Night, the entire cast seems to think they are acting on stage. The two leads, Pertwee and Scacchi, are far too theatrical in their facial expressions for their performances to be believable (the overuse of closeups makes this all the more intolerable). Additionally, Scacchi never convincingly portrays Lady Macbeth as the villain that spurs her husband onward. The strength needed to push not only her husband but her own self into the dirty deed of murder is not apparent on screen. Apart from the two leads, none of the other actors register any noteworthy performances.

The thought of setting Macbeth in a contemporary setting is certainly understandable (though a Mafia context seems much more fitting than a post-apocalyptic one) and there are a few instances during the climax in which the gritty, documentary style camera work is used effectively. Yet, leaving those aside, this is probably the worst telling of Shakespeare's tragedy ever put to celluloid.

Style Grade: C
Substance Grade: A+ (for Shakespeare), D (for Bogdanov's telling)

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes
Anamorphicyesyes


Image Transfer Review: Each movie is shown in its respective original aspect ratio. Twelfth Night is given a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer with slight edge enhancement around the actors and minor artifacting. Colors come across nicely, however, especially the sunsets seen in Orsino's dwelling. The nonanamorphic 1.66:1 Macbeth transfer is much grittier and darker, partly due to the style of the filmmaking and the source footage (it appears to have been shot on 16mm film). The murder of Banquo is incredibly grainy, too much so in fact. However, the rest of the image has fairly decent depth and a pleasant film-like look.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Each film is treated to a rather inactive Dolby Stereo sound mix. The surround speakers are not utilized at all, but the front soundstage has a nice presentation of the music, dialogue, and other noises. Dialogue is easily understood, which is a big help for those who are not familiar with the plays. Twelfth Night features a wider front soundstage than Macbeth, with a good use of sound separation during the opening scene. Neither mix is dynamic on the whole, however.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Double alpha
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Insert—contains two essays, one about each film.
Extras Review: The only supplemental material is an insert containing an essay about each film. Director Tim Supple writes about his thoughts on the play Twelfth Night, or What You Will and his designs in adapting it for television. The Macbeth essay, by its producer, Sue Pritchard, is a re-telling of her experience with the play as a student and why she wanted to make it into a film. Neither offers a great deal of information.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

Home Vision gives a barebones release to this Shakespearean duo of tragedy and comedy. The results are varied between the two films, but Twelfth Night is worth a viewing. The image and sound transfers are adequate, but nothing fancy.

 


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