Shakespeare Lives in Film_HKIFF

The Scottish play" has bedeviled filmmakers for more than a century. The British Council is proud to support Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) 2016 in presenting a series of Shakespeare’s films to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death.

The interplay of fate and magic, human motivations and soul-wrenching questions of loyalty and destiny, even the core relationship of Macbeth and his lady have fascinated actors and actresses, directors and designers. Yet, the violence at the heart of the play, with battles, beheadings and assassinations, also imposes demands on players and audiences as powerful as the poetry of Shakespeare’s composition. Directors have taken charge and shifted the scene to modern gangs or American politics; actors and actresses have taken the key roles as career challenges. And across cultures, filmmakers have seen the universality as well as the differences underneath the moving forest, within the castle walls. 

A Trio of Macbeth will be shown at the 40th HKIFF from 2 April to 4 April 2016. More film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, including Hamlet (1948), The Tragedy of Othello(1952), The Merchant of Venice (1969), Romeo and Juliet (1968), King Lear (1971), Prospero’s Books (1991), West Side Story (1961) and My Own Private Idaho (1991), will be shown at the HKIFF CineFan programme in April/ May 2016.

Post-screening Talk with Ian Haydn Smith

Date: Sunday, 3 April
Time: 16.30
Venue: The Metroplex, G/F., E-Max, KITEC, 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay
Language: English
Remarks: Admission by ticket only.

Ian Haydn Smith is the editor of Curzon and BFI Filmmakers magazines. He is formerly the editor of the International Film Guide (2007-13) and the '24 Frames to World Cinema' series. A London-based writer he is also the editor of the BFI London Film Festival and Flare programmes. He regularly hosts BAFTA masterclasses and has represented the British Council internationally since 2011. His most recent book is 'New British Cinema: From Submarine to 12 Years a Slave'.

The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971)

A director’s Macbeth, showing the powerful vision of Roman Polanski, struggling with the depression that followed the death of his wife and her friends at the hands of Charles Manson. For some critics of the era, the sheer violence as well as the nudity of the production offended. Others noted subtle manipulations that allowed Ross, a minor character, to reframe our reading. As Roger Ebert concluded, “It’s an original film by an original film artist, and not an interpretation.”

Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw, Terence Bayler, John Stride
Duration: 140min 
Language: English, with Chinese subtitles
Screening on 3 April 2016 (Sun) 1415 at The Metroplex. Tickets available at URBTIX

*Post-screening talk with Ian Haydn Smith 

Romeo and Juliet (1968)

Sarah Bernhardt played Juliet in a lost silent film at age 70; Derek Jacobi played Mercutio at Old Vic at 77.But this is a story of young, almost childish love amidst violent, tragic division, and no one has ever evoked that so well as Franco Zeffirelli. Casting largely unknown stage actors as debut stars in the title roles, and using the buildings and fields or Italy itself as settings, Zeffirelli created a fairy tale of and for teenagers, that we still can relish 50 years later.

1969 Academy Awards, Best Cinematography & Best Costume Design

Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Cast: Olivia Hussey, Leonard Whiting
Duration: 138min 
Language: English, with Chinese subtitles
Screenings on 16 April 2016 (Sat) 19.15 and 8 May 2016 (Sun) 16.30 at The Grand Cinema. Tickets available at URBTIX

Hamlet (1948)

The Shakespearean’s Shakespeare –and the only Shakespeare production to win an Academy Award for Best picture.Olivier had already gained global fame as the best interpreter of the Bard on stage in his era.Yet, Olivier as director trimmed and tucked more than any other version –eliminating not only speeches but whole characters (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are gone).Nonetheless, Olivier emerges as actor to take command with elegant, powerful soliloquies and underscore the sheer metatheatricality of a play about a play. A film that fortified Shakespearean cinema as a genre.

1948 Venice Film Festival, Grand International Award
1949 4 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor

Director: Laurence Olivier
Cast: Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, John Laurie
Duration: 155min 
Language: English, with Chinese subtitles
Screenings on 23 April 2016 (Sun) 12.30 at The Grand Cinema and on 28 May 2016 (Sat) 20.00 at HK Film Archive. Tickets available at URBTIX

Prospero's Book (1991)

The most magical interpretation of the most magical play.A play of voice (the mellifluous sage actor John Gielgud) and a surfeit of images as a fantasia on themes of The Tempest delight our eyes.Yes, Miranda and her star-crossed love are there, while Ariel infuses the senses in multiple incarnations. It is Shakespeare, but it is also mime, and noh theater, and opera. And above all, albeit delightfully, it is Peter Greenaway engaging the creativity and promise of the Bard in an age of film.

1991 Venice Film Festival

Director: Peter Greenaway
Cast: John Gielgud, Michael Clark, Michel Blanc
Language: English, with Chinese subtitles
Screenings on 2 May 2016 (Mon) 19.30 and 28 May 2016 (Sat) 17.30 at Hong Kong Film Archive. Tickets available at URBTIX

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