Monday, November 24, 2014

The Tempest (2010 film)

Based on the play by William Shakespeare, The Tempest is the story of a duchess who has been exiled to a remote island with her daughter as she seeks revenge through magic as well as uncover the conspiracy by those who betrayed her. Written for the screen and directed by Julie Taymor, the film is a different take of the Shakespeare play where the Prospero character is changed from a man to a woman as she is played by Helen Mirren. Also starring Russell Brand, Felicity Jones, Djimon Hounsou, Ben Whishaw, Reeve Carney, Tom Conti, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, David Strathairn, and Alfred Molina. The Tempest is a grand and stylish film from Julie Taymor.

Set in a remote island, the film plays into an exiled duchess who is seeking revenge through magic against those who usurped her as she hopes to reclaim what is hers as well as what her daughter is supposed to have. Much of it plays to Prospera’s thirst for vengeance as she had been wronged by many that includes the King of Naples Alonso (David Strathairn) and her own brother Antonio (Chris Cooper) as the latter was the mastermind for her exile. For 12 years, Prospera and her daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) remain on this island as Prospera learns that Alonso’s ship is on route towards the island with his party as she sees this as an opportunity to exact her revenge. While she gets help from her spirit Ariel (Ben Whishaw), she deals with circumstances that are beyond her control once Miranda encounters Alonso’s son Ferdinand (Reeve Carney).

The film’s screenplay does retain much of the dialogue that Shakespeare wrote while Julie Taymor does create new interpretations in order to play into this drama about betrayal, conspiracies, and redemption. Even as Prospera is dealing with the betrayal from her brother as she was supposed to be in power as well as Miranda. Through a shipwreck that Prospera would cause from her magical powers, the survivors in Alonso, Antonio, Alonso’s brother Sebastian (Alan Cumming), and Alonso’s counselor Gonzalo (Tom Conti) go on a journey to find Ferdinand who was shipwrecked on another part of the island. There’s also another subplot involving a disgruntled slave of Prospera in Caliban (Djimon Hounsou) who would conspire with two of Alonso’s servants in Stephano (Alfred Molina) and Trinculo) into overthrowing Prospera. It all plays into people trying to get something while underestimating this duchess who finds herself dealing with not just her thirst for revenge but also for the future of her own daughter.

Taymor’s direction is definitely ambitious in terms of its visual scale while she would shoot the film entirely on islands in Hawaii and Lanai to play into its rugged look as well as its different settings such as woods and blacks sands. While Taymor’s use of wide shots are very prevalent, she does maintain a sense of intimacy in terms of the presentation of the performances. Notably in the use of close-ups and medium shots along with some inspiring usage of low-angles to play into the location where the actors use it as a stage and more. Taymor’s approach to directing actors doesn’t just have them recite Shakespeare but also in allowing the actors to create their own interpretations to those roles where there’s a looseness in the direction that is quite engaging to watch. Overall, Taymor creates a very thrilling and evocative film about a duchess seeking revenge from those who betrayed her.

Cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of lights for some of the interiors along with some of the nighttime exteriors as well as some colorful scenes set in the forests. Editor Francoise Bonnot does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of fast-cuts, dissolves, and other elements of style to play into the looseness of the film and its offbeat rhythm. Production designer Mark Friedberg and set decorator Alyssa Winter do amazing work with the look of Prospera‘s home and her workshop where she would create her own spells. Costume designer Sandy Powell does fantastic work with the costumes from the white dress that Miranda wears to the lavish cape and dress that Prospera wears.

Prosthetics makeup designer Mike Marino does superb work with the look of Caliban in his rugged look to play into his personality as well as the look of Ariel. Visual effects supervisor Mike Cooper does wonderful work with the visual effects as it plays into the world of mysticism and magic that surrounds Prospera. Sound designer Blake Leyh does nice work with the sound to convey the atmosphere of the locations as well as the sound effects from the spells that Prospera would make. The film’s music by Elliot Goldenthal is terrific for its mixture of bombastic orchestral music with elements of rock as it plays into its extravagance and some of its humor.

The film’s marvelous cast features some notable comic performances from Alfred Molina and Russell Brand in their respective roles as Stephano and Trinculo as two men who are eager to gain the riches of their employers while conspiring with Caliban in overtaking Prospera. Ben Whishaw is terrific as the spirit Ariel as he brings some humor as a figure who helps Prospera while Djimon Hounsou is excellent as the disgruntled slave Caliban who feels unappreciated by Prospera as he hopes to get rid of her. Tom Conti is superb as Alonso’s counselor Gonzalo who was a mentor of Prospera as he tries to make sense of the situation. Alan Cumming is wonderful as Alonso’s brother Sebastian who is a conspirator of Prospera’s exile as he is coerced into trying to do the same to his own brother.

David Strathairn is amazing as King Alonso of Naples as a king who is concerned with finding his son while dealing with some issues in the past as it relates to Prospera. Chris Cooper is brilliant as the devious Antonio who masterminded the exile on his sister as he tries to maintain some power for himself in the hopes that he can be important. Reeve Carney is fantastic as Ferdinand as Alonso’s son who meets Miranda and Prospera as he tries to win over the latter as he reveals to be a good person and a worthy match for Miranda. Felicity Jones is an absolute delight as Miranda as this young woman who falls for Ferdinand while trying to aid her mother in the plans as she knows the role that she is destined to play. Finally, there’s Helen Mirren in an incredible performance as Prospera as Mirren is just so commanding in everything she does while bringing a lot of gravitas to a woman betrayed and seeking vengeance while displaying some sensitivity as it relates to her daughter as Mirren is the star of the film.

The Tempest is a marvelous film from Julie Taymor that features a phenomenal performance from Helen Mirren. The film isn’t just a unique and stylish take on the William Shakespeare play but also a dazzling interpretation that manages to be funny and dramatic. In the end, The Tempest is a rapturous film from Julie Taymor.

Julie Taymor Films: Titus (1999 film) - Frida - Actross the Universe - The Auteurs #42: Julie Taymor

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