A once-in-a-lifetime cast shines in this hilarious version of the beloved Shakespeare comedy! When a shipwreck separates siblings Viola and Sebastian in a foreign land, each thinks the other is dead, and both embark on a s... more »eries of romantic misadventures involving deception, cross-dressing, dashing counts, obese alcoholics and a perceptive fool who presides over the entire madcap affair. A delight from start to finish, this dazzling treat is British comedy at its best! When a shipwreck separates siblings Viola and Sebastian in a foreign land, both think the other is dead and embarks on a series of romantic misadventures.« less
One of the best Shakespearean comedies done for film
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Trevor Nunn's Twelfth Night sits up on the same pedestal as Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing. Not a suprise, either, given that both films came out of Branagh's Renaissance Films. Reset in the Victorian era, Nunn maintains the delicate balance of comedy and drama (much like Much Ado), carried out in one amazing cast. Nunn does a wonderful job of keeping most of Shakespeare's comedy in-tact, editing only when neccessary to appease a film audience (most noticeable in Viola's famous "I left no ring with her" monologue being broken up throughout the film).No member disappoints and each one excels in their own right. Helena Bonham Carter, queen of period films, plays an astounding Olivia with excellent timing. Imogen Stubbs, whom I've only seen play a small role in Sense and Sensibility, exceeds all expectations set for her in the role of Viola. And Ben Kingsley (yes, Ghandi), reminds us of his Royal Shakespeare Company roots as a multi-dimensional Feste. The score, unhappily available on CD (albeit Kingley's "The Wind and the Rain" is available on the CD collection "If Music Be the Food of Love: Shakespeare at the Movies"), is breathtaking and well-done, particularly for a play that includes so much music as a stage performance. It corrolates perfectly with the lush settings (often involving romantic sea-scapes and Victorian manor houses) and costumes. Perhaps the biggest disappointment about this film is that it's not available on DVD. However, it alone is reason enough for me to keep my VCR."
Brilliant Cast and Direction Shed New Light on Shakespeare
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Trevor Nunn's adaptation of "Twelfth Night" is a masterpiece of insight and nuance. Instead of simply playing up the obvious slapstick of this gender-bending comedy of mistaken identity, Nunn highlights the dark undertones of the plot which yield surprising depth and poignancy. Those familiar with the play will notice some alterations in the original text, but those who are new to Shakespeare will thank Mr. Nunn for making the story easier to follow and a pleasure to behold. For example, when Duke Orsino (Toby Stephens) utters the famous opening line of the play, "If music be the food of love, play on," ten minutes have already elapsed. But what takes place in those ten minutes sets up the plot beautifully and brings the characters to life.The story centers around two twins, Viola (Imogen Stubbs in a star-making performance) and Sebastian (Stephen Makintosh), who are shipwrecked and separated at sea, each fearing the other is dead. Viola washes up on the shore of a hostile country and disguises herself in her brother's clothes to avoid capture and keep his memory alive. The other two main characters, Olivia (Helena Bonham Carter), and Orsino (Toby Stephens), are similarly troubled. Olivia mourns her own brother's recent death and Orsino suffers passionate unrequited love for Olivia, who refuses to see him. Viola's male alter ego, Cesario, winds up in Orsino's court, becomes his best friend, and (here's the rub) romantic emissary to Olivia. What follows is a hilarious and poignant farce in which Olivia falls in love with Orsino's messenger, Cesario (Viola) who, under her disguise, is desperately in love with Orsino. Meanwhile, mischievous members of Olivia's household trick her arrogant butler, Malvolio (a brilliant Nigel Hawthorne), into believing that Olivia loves him, and another jealous suitor, the hapless Sir Andrew Agucheek (Nigel Grant), challenges Cesario to a duel. Through it all, the wry fool, Feste (Ben Kingsley), penetrates the confusion with a dry wit, a calming presence, and a surprisingly good singing voice(!). When Sebastian, a "dead ringer" for Cesario (Viola), finally arrives on the scene, the confusion rises to a fever pitch that only Shakespeare could unravel. Trevor Nunn has assembled a brilliant cast led by the astonishingly versatile Imogen Stubbs. As Viola/Cesario, Stubbs gives a richly nuanced performance which ranges from deep pathos to antic comedy. It's a shame that this intelligent, multi-faceted actress (who previously appeared in "Sense and Sensibility") doesn't get top billing for the film. This is not to say that the actress who does, Helena Bonham Carter, isn't fabulous in her own right. Ms. Carter displays prodigious comic talents in "Twelfth Night" and surely has the most expressive eyebrows in cinema. Her reaction to Sebastian's arrival is itself almost worth the price of admission. Ben Kingsley infuses the role of Feste with great humanity and warmth, and Toby Stephens is a handsome, noble Orsino. The cinematography is beautiful and Shaun Davey's musical score is a delight. In a play where Shakespeare included so many songs, Davey contributes music that fits perfectly with the Victorian setting of Nunn's adaptation. The way in which Nunn uses Feste's final song to tie up the loose ends of the plot is but one of the many little touches that make this "Twelfth Night" a joy to watch again and again."
Present mirth hath present laughter.......
A. Casalino | Downers Grove, IL USA | 07/08/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"How wonderful that I should happen upon this movie one early summer evening not so very long ago - and that it should brighten the wettest, most overcast June immemorial! Director Trevor Nunn set this Shakespeare play in the Victorian era, and his adaptation is overflowing with talent - Imogen Stubbs (Viola) shows herself to be a versatile actress who can brilliantly play this complex lead with ease! Also notable were Nigel Hawthorne (Malvolio), Toby Stephens (Orsino), Helena Bonham Carter (wonderful as Olivia, although I'd expected it as I've never seen her performances as anything less), Richard E. Grant (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), and Imelda Staunten (Maria) -- and Ben Kingsley (the fool, Feste) did such a magnificent job - and, incidently, he sings superbly - he would easily have stolen the show if it weren't for the flawless performances of the entire cast!I had to give it four stars instead of five because it was very hard to follow what was being spoken much of the time. I actually had to pull out my "Riverside Shakespeare" to follow what was being said. Much of this movie is verbatim directly from the play itself - which I must say endears it further into my heart. In the midst of a summer where, at least here in my little realm of the earth, it "raineth every day," a movie such as this eases the doldrums. This movie is a delight!"
Laughter, Tears, and the Rain, it Raineth Every Day!
F. S. L'hoir | Irvine, CA | 10/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If this "Twelfth Night" is not the definitive "Twelfth Night," it comes close. Under the guidance of director Trevor Nunn, the superb cast plays Shakespeare not only for laughs but also for the dark pathos that underlies the comedy, as is evident in Feste's song, "Come away, come away death, and in sad cypress let me be laid." Ben Kingsley portrays Shakespeare's enigmatic clown, whose rendition of the charming, but usually conventional, "O mistress mine, where are you roaming?," is tinged with a tragic undertone. It not only complements the love-sick Duke Orsino's lament, "If music be the food of love, play on," but, as its last strains linger in the air, it suffuses its listeners with an inexpressible sadness. It is as if, with the final notes, the hitherto roistering Maria, Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew, have become painfully aware of the ephemeral nature of life.
Imogen Stubbs is a delightful (and plausibly male) Viola, disguised as Cesario, who must act as a go-between for Orsino (an incredibly handsome Toby Stephens) and Olivia (Helena Bonham-Carter, who looks as if she has stepped out of a pre-Raphaelite painting). The scenes between Viola and Orsino, as she is falling in love with him and he is most definitely attracted to his young "man" and emissary, are fraught with a palpable sexual tension (A similar dynamic may well have been present in the original production when the audience knew that a boy was playing the part of a girl playing the part of a boy. Trevor Nunn conveys the ambiguity of gender with subtle artistry). Viola and her twin brother Sebastian look reasonably enough alike so that the audience can easily suspend its disbelief and, along with the characters, enjoy the confusion of "Which one is Sebastian?."
The production is reinforced by an ensemble cast. Nigel Hawthorne's pompous yet vulnerable Malvolio has the viewer laughing at one moment and crying at the next. The cruel pranks of Maria (Imelda Staunton), Sir Toby Belch (Mel Smith), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Richard E. Grant) and Feste, the clown, bring Malvolio deservedly low, but as he leaves the household and his tormenters forever, the audience knows that the comic conspirators may have humiliated him, but they have not robbed him of his dignity. Malvolio's exit is followed by the departure of the brooding Feste, who, "with a hey, ho, and the wind and the rain," strolls along the edge of a cliff above the shore. As he gazes out over the restless sea, he seems to be seeing beyond the play's comic narrative frame into the reality of a future that is ineffably dark.
Nunn's "Twelfth Night" is fast-moving and suspenseful, even if one has seen the play dozens of times. There are so many delightful moments that it is difficult to single one out, but the duel in the orchard between the terrified Viola and the equally frantic Sir Andrew is hysterically funny. The Cornish settings make for a stunning "Illyria." And since the audience is readily transported to that fantastic country, the pre-Raphaelite / Ruritanian costumes and settings do not spoil the illusion. "
Lili_K | Hungary | 11/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There have been many great Shakespeare drama adaptations, but Trevor Nunn's Twelfth Night is outstanding even among the greatest. It is wonderful how sensitively and excitingly he handles the issue of identity (girl disguising herself as a boy) and identification (male-female twins)problems.
The major character is Viola, who after losing her twin brother (played by Stephen Mackintosh very convincingly), is forced to disguise herself as a boy to survive in a strange and hostile land (namely Illyria which is at war with her home county, Messaline). The introductory scenes (not included in the drama) showing how brother and sister, sharing a strong bond of affection, lose each other, how dangerous it is for a citizen of Messaline to set foot in Illiyra and how Viola is transformed into a boy give the story a very good frame. The scenes where Viola is being transformed are great, showing how sensitive this girl is, how difficult it is for her to pretend, yet she musters all her courage to hide her pain over the supposed death of her brother. But struggles are not over as she also has to hide her passionate love from Orsino, the Duke of Illyira whom she serves.
Her position is twofold difficult: she soon becomes Orsino's confident, they get really close to each other so she finds more and more difficult to hide her feelings from him; but to ease Orsino's sufferings, she undertakes to act as a "courier" for pursuing his hopeless love, the Countess Olivia. Then comes another Shakespearean turn of the screw: Olivia, who won't hear of Orsino's passion, falls for Cesario/Viola. In the meantime, Sebastian, thinking her beloved sister, Viola is dead, sets for Illyria as well ...
As it is a comedy all things messed up will sort themselves out at the end, however, this is not a light comedy, the shadow of the tragic is hovering over the whole drama shaped in one of the subplots. The whole film seems to balance at the very narrow edge of tragedy and comedy all the time despite the many hilarious moments.
The most wonderful scenes are the ones of Cesario/Viola and the Duke Orsino (a very sexy Toby Stephens)being together. Nunn is actually showing the emotional and subtle sexual attraction the Duke feels for his "manservant". Absolutely brilliant! Imogen Stubbs personificates Viola superbly: an upright woman, who, despite the disguise she is forced to wear, is the most honest of all, especially compared to the characters of Orsino and Oliva, both of whom are deluding themselves by imaginary feelings.
The whole cast is wonderful from Helena Bonham-Carter to Ben Kingsley. Music and costume all fit in amazingly with the whole atmosphere of the drama. "