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Cinematic Adaptations of Shakespeare's The Tempest and their Contemporary Meanings: the Films of Derek Jarman and Julie Taymor

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2014, 27(3), pp.35-78
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

김민정 1 Kang Kim 1

1호남대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The aim of this paper is to examine the contemporary meanings and cinematic features of the two critically-acclaimed films based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest: Derek Jarman’s The Tempest in 1979 and Julie Taymor’s The Tempest in 2010. It is commonly believed that The Tempest is one of the most unrealistic plays and consequently far more appropriated for a variety of cinematic translations and adaptations than any other plays attributed to Shakespeare. Furthermore, the play contains problematic modern discourses of racism and colonial ideologies rooted in the social conditions in which it was written, and universal themes such as family, power, revenge, forgiveness, and reconciliation. These issues and themes provided many of the creative directors in film with a significant foundation so as to materialize their distinct imagination and artistic craftsmanship. As being the main targets of our slightly wordy argument about Shakespeare on screen here in this paper, the two Tempest movies are regarded as the outstanding works by film critics in terms of cinematic interpretation and hermeneutic adaptations. In his queer Tempest, Derek Jarman seeks to interpret Shakespeare’s original play-text on the perspectives of non-mainstream and counterculture tendencies at his time, which stands against the dominant bourgeois high-brow culture inclusive of the works of Shakespeare. Jarman suggests all the episodes in the movie being a painful dream to which not-yet-coming-out Prospero’s repressed homosexual desire and self-attachment are aggressively reflected, portraying Caliban as a symbol of his alter ego of gay sexuality. Taymor’s Tempest dangerously crosses a border line of gender politics with the change of the male protagonist’s sex in the original play into a female one. Here a stubborn father Prospero becomes a caring mother Prospera and the father-daughter relationship purposedly set up by Shakespeare in the play get reversed in the mother-daughter one in the movie in compliance with today’s female-oriented gender roles and social change. Prospera as a mother of untarnished daughter decides to throw away her womanly magical power and to return to the place to which she formerly belonged for her daughter’s happiness and growth. By means of a new genre, critically-dubbed ‘Shakespeare on screen’, the works of Shakespeare are incessantly being renovated and rejuvenated by accommodating the social and cultural values of the period when the films are made and circulated among the public. As in the cases of two Tempest movies discussed above, analytical approaches to the cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays will also bring a new different understanding of the contemporary themes that any society faces and his original texts as well.

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