1. Analysis of the Play
The Tempest is believed to be William Shakespeare’s last work. Much of the play’s themes involve magic as well as imperialism. The play is set on an island where Prospero, the Duke of Milan, and his daughter, Miranda, were exiled. Prospero uses the magic of a spirit named Ariel to seek revenge on his brother and advisors. Imperialism in the play is seen by Caliban’s interactions with the other characters. While Caliban is the only native islander, the people that were brought into the island overpower his opinions. The play concludes when all the characters are brought together and Prospero forgives the men. Prospero releases Ariel from the spirit’s service, and Prospero, Miranda, and the men leave the island.
2. Analysis of the film
The film version of The Tempest was directed by Julie Taymor and released in 2010. Similar to the play’s theme, Taymor also used magic and politics as central themes of the film. The Shakespearean language in the film kept true to the play. The use of magic throughout the film showed how the characters are influenced and tempted by it. The film expanded on the theme of magic through the visuals it produced. Also, the change of Prospero from a man to a woman gave an interesting twist to the film. Making Prospero to Prospera changed the relationships of the characters, especially between Prospera and Miranda.
3. Analysis of the adaptation
Many times, adapting a work of literature to film results in several problems. The adaptation of The Tempest to film is no different. Several reviews about the film version agree on the issues of using too much CGI and question the meaning of the play to Taymor. At some points in the film, the CGI did appear foggy and unintentional. In the New Yorker review, Richard Brody wrote:
“The issues of legitimate rule, artistic power, long-awaited revenge, Christian charity, and family heritage (among many other things) that the play unfurls elicit no questions and no challenges from the director. She neither stands up nor pushes back; she takes her Shakespeare as she may have gotten it in school, and the movie she made may well find its way back to school, as an unobjectionable (yet uninspiring) visual aid.”
Brody argues that Taymor did not challenge or attempt to personalize the play, yet it is not necessarily true. While some of the themes of the play are not as heavily incorporated in the film, one of the major aspects that Taymor made to personalize the film was the gender switch of Prospero. Turning Prospero into Prospera was one part that Taymor got the most praise from several reviews. Changing the gender of the protagonist of the play created a new dynamic that the film could explore. It changed relationships that the play did not have and showed a new side to a Shakespearean character.
4. Online Research on the film
In the Cinema Blend review by Katey Rich, the film version of The Tempest was over the top and frantic. One of the major problems, according to Rich, was the storytelling coming second to the CGI. Robert Beames’ review did complain about the weak graphics, but acknowledged Taymor’s attempt to film The Tempest as a film rather than a staged play.
Robert Ebert’s review on The Tempest pointed both the negative and positive contributions that Taymor did to Shakespeare’s play. One of his main issues in the film was the loss of Shakespeare’s tone. He wrote:
“In a film filled with sound and fury, she rages against the dying of the light. There is no reconciliation or closure. What reads as a poetic acceptance of human mortality plays as the defiance of a magician clinging to familiar tricks.”
Even though the film appeared to rely more on the magic and the CGI, its use of language did come through. Similar to other reviews, Ebert also acknowledged the gender-switched Prospera as bold. Ebert’s review did not solely focus on the problems that the film had. He wrote that, “Taymor might have turned down the heat,” but it still kept the main themes of Shakespeare’s play.
5. Critical Argument
While Julie Taymor’s adaptation of The Tempest did receive mixed reviews, Taymor’s version represents unique aspect on the magic, politics, and language that many other Shakespearean films also use. Taymor personalized the film by using the CGI to represent the magic aspect, and she changed Prospero’s gender to give it an interesting perspective. Looking over the CGI and gender-switch, Taymor kept the themes and the Shakespearean language. At no point in the film did Taymor drastically change the main plot of The Tempest and over-personalized it. One Shakespeare adaptation that can be compared to The Tempest is Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. While Luhrmann did keep the themes and Shakespearean language in his version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, he modernized the actions of the characters by using guns rather than swords in the fighting scenes. Although Taymor could have modernized her adaptation to give it a distinguished aspect, she chose to keep the medieval aspect of it. Taymor’s The Tempest shows her aspect on the Shakespeare play even though some reviews believed that she did not show it.
June 4, 2015
“Julie Taymor’s ‘The Tempest’”
The Front Row (blog)
December 13, 2010
“Review: ‘The Tempest’ with Helen Mirren in first screening at Venice Film Festival”
September 11, 2010
“NYFF Review: Julie Taymor Brings Noise And Emptiness To Shakespeare’s The Tempest”
October 3, 2010