The Makellan/Locraine’s Richard III

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The Makellan/Locraine’s Richard III

In order to compose an exploratory “semi-reproduction” of a text from a different era, one needs not only to analyse the depth in language, construction of characters and other logistics behind the text itself, but also aspects of the society which gave birth to it. It is an impossibility to effectively or accurately transform a text to meet the requirements placed on it by contemporary values while concurrently retaining representations of the “parent” society, without fully understanding the driving mechanics behind the social order (or disorder) from which the context is derived.

Although at first glance the Makellan/Locraine’s Richard III seems to be a feeble attempt at streamlining Shakespeare for the popular audience we can see after a more analytical viewing that it actually meets the qualities ascribed above quite successfully. The selection of settings, placement of dialogue (ie dialogue being given to different characters), the inclusion of certain characters and the exclusion of others all become reflections of the director’s extensive ability to respond to the necessary prerequisite of understanding the alluded text and circumstances of it’s creation.

To represent the values of the Elizabethan society, while avoiding the loss of credibility by thrusting those aspects into a modern setting, we have to select an era in which such values were present by default. At the same time this new time frame must be familiar to us in the historical sense so that we easily make our connections to the events which occurred during that time. The director chose Britain in the 1930s. The similarities are almost eerie. The underlying social unrest of the depression times between the two Great Wars must have been identical to what the people of post-War of the Roses era were going through. The heated tensions between the Great Powers in Europe and the rise of Hitler and NAZI Germany and also the fresh memories of suffering caused by the Great Depression all added to the general atmosphere of suspicion and fear. The resurgence of nationalistic attitudes in 30s was quite similar to national unity achieved under the rule of Elizabeth.

Added to all this was the issue of equality in gender. It would have been quite ridiculous to have all the female characters as humble subordinates of men if the film were to be set in the 90s. It was essential to make women dependent on men if the Lady Anne/Richard wooing scene were to be credible. This particular setting also provides the opportunity to resonate certain aspects of our history to emphasise certain ideas presented. The strongest evidence of this is the coronation scene where the assembly of Yorks and the red Yorkist banners hung like swastika tapestries resembled a Nazi rally.

But our beloved villain is not a Hitler. The Hitlerisation of the coronation scene was just reinforcement (a powerful reinforcement) of Richard’s monumental status. This particular anti-hero is more than just evil. Where as our horrified fascination for Hitler comes only from the magnitude of his crimes, Richard to us is infinitely more interesting with his charm, humorous wit and ability to stay two steps ahead of his opponents at all times.

When we first meet him, his face is hidden behind a gas mask, the silenced gun in his left (good) hand aimed directly at the camera, symbolising his lethal hypocrisy. Richard’s character in the film is made up of three separate identities. We the viewers can see all three while the poor characters that Richard manipulates can only see the “one false mirror” he put up for them.

The first of these identities is a mask penetrable only by the audience. This identity changes slightly from time to time as occasion demands. Richard the witty wooer, the tragic lover, the loyal brother, loving uncle, the good and saintly king are all part of this charade, a drama within a drama, performed for the benefit of the subordinate characters.

His second identity (much closer to the truth, but invisible to his victims) is revealed by applying a device rarely used in the industry. It is quite unsettling when Richard turns directly into the camera and jokingly reveals us his monstrous plots and inductions. It is this bold use of soliloquies that lead to

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