May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
January 11, 2010
Filmwell’s Ron Reed is celebrating his birthday today, and we’d like to invite you to participate in the party. Here’s how:
Since Ron is not only a passionate cinephile, but also the Artistic and Executive Director of the excellent Pacific Theatre in Vancouver B.C., let’s honor Ron by revisiting and recommending our favorite stage-to-screen productions. What’s your favorite film that was adapted from a stage play?
Tape (Linklater, 2001)
The already intensely claustrophobic script of Stephen Belber’s one act play becomes even more of a dramaturgical assault in the confines of Linklater’s direction. As the dialogue circles, and the narrative leaps across changes in direction, Linklater manages to maintain an edge of your seat theatrical immediacy even though Tape is total cinema.
Ran (Kurosawa, 1985)
Does this count? Kurosawa’s take on King Lear embellishes its characters with backstory and dials up all the lusts and insanities. But it is a bona fide epic that captures the sense of chaos at the heart of Shakespeare’s script.
Ordet (Dreyer, 1955)
Even though Dreyer goes out of his way to grant Kaj Munk the prominent opening credit for Ordet, it is one of the least theatrical stage-to-screen adaptations out there. The spare, quiet world Dreyer provides the characters in this script are often found staring offscreen into the theological essences of Munk’s play – which Dreyer shows us with immense cinematic certainty.
Titus (Taymor, 1999)
I suppose this is another entry that barely counts, but Taymor’s adaptation of Titus Andronicus is a remarkable feat of set design masquerading as cinema.
It’s hard to pick. But I do love Amadeus.
The one that immediately comes to mind for me is A Man for All Seasons.
Well, you could do worse than Casablanca.
But the films that sprang to mind, already mentioned by my colleagues, include Ordet and Amadeus. Both are such cinematic achievements, I think I might find stage versions frustrating.
Glengarry Glenn Ross has aged well, as its ensemble cast brought out the very best in each other. And speaking of great ensembles, I’m also very fond of Vanya on 42nd Street, which is a smashing production of Chekov’s play, as well as a tribute to the power over great theater; it draws us in without any of the cinematic trappings we’ve come to think are necessary.
Kenneth Branagh’s Henry IV, however, embraces cinematic tools while maintaining the manner of theatrical line-readings. Branagh was born to be a stage actor, not a screen actor, but he found a great way to turn the screen into a stage for this inspiring, passionate film
I can think of a few that deserve more attention too: 1994’s What Happened Was… was Tom Noonan’s film adaptation of his own two-character stage play, and it’s wonderfully strange. The Big Kahuna, adapted from the play Hospitality Suite, is one that deserves more attention. And this is a stretch… but I’d also highly recommend a little-known documentary called OT: Our Town, which is about the staging of Thornton Wilder’s famous play by high school students.
These are a few of my favorite things. Which reminds me: We’d better not leave out The Sound of Music.
Jeffrey Overstreet watches far too many movies, writes film reviews and two weekly columns for ChristianityTodayMovies.com, maintains the Web site LookingCloser.org, contributes to Paste Magazine, and is at work on a series of novels. He works at Seattle Pacific University.