For those of you not in the know, here’s the plot: Prospero (Plummer), the rightful Duke of Milan, was banished to a mysterious island along with his comely daughter Miranda (Trish Lindstrm). During his 12-year exile, Prospero’s become a formidable sorcerer. When a shipload of his enemies, including Alonso the King of Naples (Peter Hutt), sail near the island, Prospero uses his magical spirit Ariel (Julyana Soelistyo) to conjure up a storm to deliver his former tormentors into his power. In addition to regaining his dukedom, he suspects he might be able to foster a romance between his daugher Miranda and King Alonso’s son Ferdinand (Gareth Potter).
But Prospero’s other magical servant, the half-demon Caliban (Dion Johnstone), has his own plan to kill his master. In addition, Alonso’s own brother Sebastian believing Ferdinand already dead is contemplating some discreet regicide of his own.
It’s not surprising but a little disappointing that McAnuff offers a fairly conventional interpretation of Shakespeare’s play. One of the greatest aspects of The Bard’s work is how it can be pushed and pulled into new shapes without destroying its integrity, and newbies and veterans alike would appreciate a little less reverence towards The Tempest. That said, McAnuff finds the comedy in the play (not always easy with Shakespeare) without exposing too much of The Bard’s more bawdy moments. He also had a lot of fun with the special effects, with clothing and characters floating through the air with the greatest of ease. The result is a fine interpretation that plays more towards archivists than deconstructionists.
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Given the Stratford Festival’s reputation, it’s a given that the acting is top-notch, and Plummer proves once again why he’s one of the greatest actors of his generation. But the pleasant surprise here is Julyana Soelistyo as Ariel: whether she’s catapulted through the air or rising from the trapdoor, the diminutive actress immediately becomes the center of attention and easily holds her own in her scenes with Plummer. This woman clearly deserves more visible roles.
Acting-wise, the only real disappointments were Trish Lindstrm and Gareth Potter as the young lovers. Too many of their scenes go for the cheap laugh instead of exploring the delightful awkwardness of a first love.
Christopher Plummer, Julyana Soelistyo Shine in Des McAnuff’s The Tempest
The first hurdle for non-Shakespeare fans is the film’s 2.5 hour running time, which is a bit much for the Ritalin Generation. Learning some patience, Ed Gruberman, is fmovies well worth it because this simply is one of the greatest plays in English literature, and it deserves to be seen in its entirety.
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