Bending the Bard: Cinematic Twists on Shakespeare

  • September 9, 2016 — October 30, 2016

With well over 400 film and TV adaptations made of his works—more than 80 of Hamlet alone—William Shakespeare is credited as being the world’s most filmed author. And though they’re now synonymous with “high” culture, his works were always intended as popular entertainment, which is perhaps why Shakespeare and cinema have always so successfully aligned. Even when his words are amended, transposed, or pared away entirely, Shakespeare’s stories, characters, and imagery are able to translate seamlessly between countries and cultures around the world.

In this spirit, and to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death, Bending the Bard: Cinematic Twists on Shakespeare presents seventeen “unconventional” cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. Freed from restrictions of a certain time, location, or even language, the filmmakers in this series have created works that both reflect and transcend their immediate cultural origins. The films span eight countries and seven decades of filmmaking, with genres ranging from sci-fi, Western, queer cinema, war propaganda, musical, and horror. . . to a samurai Macbeth, a Bollywood Othello, and a Finnish neo-noir Hamlet set in a rubber duck factory. Bringing together well-known classics alongside lesser-seen adaptations, Bending the Bard celebrates these unique, inventive films as well as the powerful way in which Shakespeare’s universal stories have become a shared global language.

Download a printable PDF of the series schedule

DVD-Blast-Throne-of-Blood

Throne of Blood

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

One of the most enduring cinematic “twists on Shakespeare” is Akira Kurosawa’s take on Macbeth, which relocates the play to

All Night Long

All Night Long

Directed by Basil Dearden

All Night Long takes the tragic sweep of Othello and narrows it into a brilliant drawing room thriller set in

Henry V

Henry V

Directed by Laurence Olivier

Tasked by Winston Churchill to create a rousing piece of morale-boosting, pro-British entertainment during the twilight years of World War

Caesar Must Die

Caesar Must Die

Directed by Vittorio Taviani, Paolo Taviani

Situated somewhere between the realms of documentary and drama, Caesar Must Die toys endlessly with the conventions of its genre,

Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet

Directed by Fred M. Wilcox

A major landmark in the evolution of cinematic science fiction, Forbidden Planet is credited with a number of pioneering achievements:

Titus

Titus

Directed by Julie Taymor

Shakespeare’s bloodiest play springs vividly to life in Julie Taymor’s (Broadway’s The Lion King, Frida, Across the Universe) inventive cinematic

Yellow Sky

Yellow Sky

Directed by William Wellman

The remote island of The Tempest becomes a desolate ghost town in William Wellman’s skillfully crafted Western. A gang of

Hamlet Goes Business 2

Hamlet Goes Business

Directed by Aki Kaurismäki

Deadpan humor abounds in this tongue-in-cheek noir adaptation of Shakespeare’s immortal Hamlet. When Hamlet (the delightfully named Pirkka-Pekka Petelius, munching

Hamlet Act

Hamlet Act

Directed by Robert Nelson

Experimental filmmaker Robert Nelson brings his characteristic wit to this restaging of the famous “play rehearsal” scene from Hamlet, breaking

Viola

Viola

Directed by Matías Piñeiro

Beginning with Viola, director Matías Piñeiro embarked upon a cinematic exploration of Shakespeare’s “light” comedies, transmuting plays like Twelfth Night,

The Princess of France

The Princess of France

Directed by Matías Piñeiro

Shifting focus from the women of Viola to the elliptical love affairs of a young man, the third entry in

Makibefo 3

Makibefo

Directed by Alexander Abela

Shifting Macbeth from the Scottish Highlands to the beautifully Spartan desert coastline of Madagascar, Makibefo is as remarkable for its

Romeo + Juliet

Romeo + Juliet

Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Baz Luhrmann’s kinetic, modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet redefined the Bard for a generation of kids who came

Kiss Me Kate

Kiss Me, Kate

Directed by George Sidney

Bright and colorful in the best MGM style, Kiss Me, Kate is an epic battle of the sexes brought to

Omkara

Omkara

Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj

One of three Shakespearean “Bollywood” adaptations by director Vishal Bhardwaj, this take on Othello seamlessly transposes the play from Elizabethan

my own private idaho_500

My Own Private Idaho

Directed by Gus Van Sant

Due to a last minute scheduling conflict, Gus Van Sant will be unable to attend the screening. However, we are

Theatre of Blood 4

Theatre of Blood

Directed by Douglas Hickox

Of all the campy, deranged, and occasionally homicidal roles memorably embodied by horror film icon Vincent Price, this was reportedly