Richard III

I've just had a most interesting time comparing two film versions of Richard III. One was the 1955 Olivier version and the other was the 1995 Loncraine/McKellan version. Both very different (eg, Loncraine's is set in the 1930s and Richard becomes a Fascist leader similar to Oswald Mosley) but both very enjoyable.

One thing I found strange was that they both omitted the character of Queen Margaret; and thereby eliminated virtually all of the curses and prophecies. I'm sure that it was partly to make the films shorter but possibly it was also to make them more accessible, since curses and divine retribution aren't themes with which we are terribly familiar nowadays. Strangely, though, I think it had the opposite effect and actually distances us from the film. Without the curses (and subsequent confessional death scenes of many characters) it is difficult to establish guilt with any other characters. Instead it remains solely with Richard and so the film becomes about life under a despotic tyrant rather than life in a society where people allow evil to happen (and Richard, while evil himself, merely takes advantage of the wider situation). Thus the themes become much narrower and it is more difficult, I think, for us to relate to films where wider societal concerns are not addressed - it makes for compelling viewing but it no longer resonates with us.

Having said that... go hire both the films! They're excellent viewing.


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