Earlier this year, it was exactly 450 years since the birth of William Shakespeare, considered by many as the greatest playwright ever. And even though such anniversaries are technically speaking just non-events based on arbitrary calendaric and mathematical concepts, it is nevertheless a good thing to be given a reason to reflect and celebrate.
According to Wikipedia, Shakespeare is the most filmed author in the history of motion pictures. Quite an accomplishment. Considering that, there are comparatively few Shakespeare films at the Internet Archive, and fewer yet that I find to be interesting.
There is a lot of stuff about Shakespeare and his texts, such as a TV programme with the title Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?. A fascinating subject, though fraught with speculating charlatans. There are also several films of amateur companies performing Shakespeare, as well as abridged LEGO animations(!) of Macbeth and Hamlet. (I have seen none of these, so watch at your own risk.)
But when it comes to feature films, we have to look harder. There are some early silent adaptations, mostly incomprehensible if you do not know the stories well, but historically interesting.
There are a handful of others, but the only one I find really interesting is the first sound version of As You Like It. Not only is this a nice version with neat, theatre-style scenography and good actors, it was also the first Shakespeare adaptation to feature Laurence Olivier, here in the role as the love-sick Orlando.
Unlike Olivier’s other three Shakespeare films, As You Like It was not directed by him. This is a shame, since his three films as director are among the greatest Shakespeare adaptations of all time. But at least you get to see this legendary actor perform, and that is certainly not a bad thing.
This film is best enjoyed for the wonderful, Shakespearean language, delivered by very good actors. The story about Orlando and his beloved Rosalind – who dresses as a young man in order to escape when she is driven away by her uncle, the Duke – is frankly a bit silly. Yet, it is a popular Shakespeare text, and this is a very good adaptation of it.
As You Like It
Running time: 1 h 36 min
Director: Paul Czinner
Stars: Laurence Olivier
Image quality: Acceptable
Resolution: Medium (720×576)
Sound quality: Acceptable
Best file format: DivX (698 M)