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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Twelfth Night
Twelfth Night
Image // PG // August 30, 2005
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Robert Spuhler | posted November 17, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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It is hard to really mess up a good script. If the words on the page inspire, the other elements of a film can fall easily into place, whether it be the acting, direction or below-the-line duties.

Twelfth Night would be successful simply based on the script, of course; there's a reason William Shakespeare's works have survived for so long, and this is one of his most-loved stories. But add in fantastic performances and the smooth direction of Royal Shakespeare Company legend Trevor Nunn, and this production becomes the standard-bearer for screen adaptations of the play.

After a shipwreck leaves Viola (Imogen Stubbs) homeless, she poses as a male servant to Count Orsino, a man she fancies, in order to be closer to him. But the plan begins to backfire when the woman Orsino loves – and whom he sends Viola to woo - falls for … Viola, now disguised and going by the name Cesario.

There are certain people in the film industry that are standards for certain films. If the film's epic in scale, the producers probably want John Williams to do the score. There are certain actors that are synonymous with "best friend" or "comic relief." In there was any justice, Trevor Nunn would be the one sought out for all things Shakespeare.

For 18 years, Nunn served as Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. This is a man who knows the Bard like very few others. His assured hand is present throughout Twelfth Night, whether it be in the slight adaptation present or the blocking of the actors. He alone lifts this above the normal Shakespeare-to-screen film.

The performances are fantastic as well, starting with Stubbs and Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia, the target of Count Orsino's love. The chemistry between the two leading ladies when Viola is dressed as Cesario is incredible, with a palpable tension and unanticipated tension. Ben Kingsley also shines as Feste.

The DVD

Video:

The 1996 feature gets very little in terms of restoration or clean up. The video transfer (1.78:1, anamorphic) is grain-riddled, betraying its age, budget and priority. The colors fare slightly better, but are still disappointingly muted. Some scenes even appear slightly out-of-focus.

Video:

The 2.0 audio track is solid, with the dialogue – the obvious star of any Shakespeare adaptation – always clear. The wonderful score comes across very well despite the technical limitations imposed on 2.0 transfers.

Extras:

There is a nine-minute behind the scenes featurette that goes for a you-are-there feel – no narration, just a camera filming the shoot. There are also short interviews with all the major players and Nunn.

Final Thoughts:

While not a reference-quality desk, nor a definitive, special features laden disc, Twelfth Night does the most important work of getting one of the great adaptations of one of Shakespeare's finest comedies onto a 21st century format. For that fact alone, this disc is highly recommended.

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