From the Globe Theatre to the World Wide Web
Edited By Stefani Brusberg-Kiermeier and Jörg Helbig
Jörg Helbig (Klagenfurt): Cinematic intertextuality in contemporary Shakespeare films -143
JÖRG HELBIG Cinematic Intertextuality in Contemporary Shakespeare Films [T]he 1990s represented the end of an era in Shakespeare filmmaking. Kenneth Branagh (in: Burnett/Wray 2000, 177) 1. The last decade of the twentieth century saw a boom of Shakespeare films unprecedented in the history of world cinema. This is quite amazing, because film companies have always been extremely cautious as far as Shakespeare is concerned. Especially American producers associated the English Bard with intellectualism and small art-house audiences, but certainly not with commercial success. It is no exaggeration to say that ever since the beginning of the sound film era, Shakespeare has been regarded as box office poison. The following story provides a perfect example for this general attitude. In 1947, Laurence Olivier started shooting his second Shakespeare film, Hamlet. Olivier produced and directed the movie and also starred in the title role. Hamlet was financed by film magnate J. Arthur Rank who was at that time the leading figure in the British film industry. Rank invested almost £ 600,000 in the production which was, by contemporary standards, an extraordinary sum. Rank was renowned for his generosity and his willingness to grant his directors a maximum of artistic freedom. With such a sum at stake, however, even Rank had to be anxious to secure the film's commercial success. Unfortunately, Olivier did practically everything to keep Rank nervous. For instance, at a time when colour cinematography was a major crowd-puller, Olivier decided to shoot the film in black-and- white. To...
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