The translation of Shakespeare's plays into film has been a continual dilemma for filmmakers since Sir John Beerbohm's three-minute adaptation of King John in 1899. The question of filmed adaptation is not a matter of the motion picture camera's ability to interpret Shakespeare, for literally hundreds of silent and sound have been filmed. The problem, however, becomes one of method and approach in Shakespeare film. To what degree will the film be set from the language and the conventions of the theater? How will the film express Shakespeare's drama in such cinematic terms as movement, lighting, sound, mise-en-scene, editing, color, camera angle and distance, composition, or special optical effects? In viewing Shakespeare films we must first realize that the filmic medium is largely distinct from the theatrical. The spectator in film is "in permanent motion as his eye identifies itself with the lens of the camera, which permanently shifts in distance and direction." The screen simply defined possesses a language of its own. Shakespeare films thus merit serious examination as a group of autonomous films which "stretch the capabilities and challenge the inhibitions of the art."



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