Prospero’s Dream

Date: 2010
Posted by: petrarchian
Cast: None
Credits: Not given
Duration: 2.51

Online videos that show a truly imaginative response to Shakespeare, rather than simply reflecting that which was already there, are rare. Here’s one. The filmmaker (presumably petrachian) has produced an interpretation of Prospero’s speech “Our revels now are ended” without using a single word of that speech. Instead it offers a hypnotic interweaving of images (dripping water, ice floes, text, film clips, fading in and out of one another), music and muffled speech. The video is specifically a tribute to Peter Greenaway, as the filmmaker notes on the YouTube page. Greenway’s films include the idiosyncratic feature film interpretation of The Tempest, Prospero’s Books (1991), in which, as petrachian outs in, Greenaways “layers all artistic modes into an expression that denies simple narrative”. The video imitates Greenaway’s style (particularly his fascination with the look of electronic video) and the film clips referenced are from Greenaway films, though so buried in the visual mix that it is not easy to distinguish them.

The result feels like the kind of dream we would expect Prospero to have, both Shakespeare’s creation, and the dream of Greenaway’s Prospero: the homage and the thing itself. The filmmaker calls this video response “simply a dream narrative, a wrestless subconscious, a churning of impressions which mean nothing at all”. There is meaning, though, in showing through mysterious video imagery and sound how the insubstantial pageant of the drama has faded, and with it certainty and belief. A small work of art, impeccably formed.

Links: YouTube page

Everything You Need To Know About The Tempest

Date: 2015
Posted by: Emma Banks
Cast: Emma Banks, Katie Douglass (voices)
Credits: Emma Banks (produced by, directed by, casting, credits, music)
Duration: 7.00 (including 1.20 of bank screen at the end)

Of all the many sub-genres of Shakespearean videos to be found on YouTube, among the most prevalent and popular are plot summaries. These are of two kinds: some make fun of the plays by cramming as much of the story as possible into a short space of time, usually a minute. Others have a more practical bent, which is to explain what is going on to the bewildered. Clearly there are quite a few young students turning to YouTube for some sort of clear guide to who is who and who does what to whom. It’s Lamb’s Tales for the 21st century.

Here’s a typical example, with an inviting title. Shakespeare’s narrative is explained through a series of crude cut-out figures placed over generic picture backgrounds., accompanied by some text and commentary. It does its job well enough, leavening the the practical business of explanation with some world-weary asides and some fun choices of cut-outs – Gollum as Caliban, in particular. Of course, it doesn’t tell you anything about what The Tempest signifies – but that’s another story.

Links: YouTube page

Behind the Stage

Date: 2013
Posted by: Donald Jordan
Cast: None
Credits: Animated by Donald Jordan
Duration: 1.27

A short but inspired work of imagination. Using a mixture of photographs and medieval woodcuts, the filmmaker has imagined a staging of The Tempest, with stormy waves, sinking ships and a whale, all framed by a theatre and shot in black-and-white. It’s a moment’s inspiration made real, where the static comes to life, and the illusory nature of the stage is made apparent through illusion. Brief, but you remember it afterwards.

Links:
YouTube page

Shakespeare’s The Tempest Animation

Shakespeare’s The Tempest Animation from matthewkilford on Vimeo.

Date: 2013
Posted by: matthewkilford
Cast: Year 6 pupils from Bloxham Primary School
Credits: Made by Bloxham Primary School; Animation Station: Matt Kilford, Emily Horler. Special thanks to Mrs Verinder, Mrs Way, Mrs Coles, Mrs Ralls, Mr Ingall
Duration: 10.28

This is an absolutely charming animated version of The Tempest made by Year 6 pupils ( ages 10-11) of Bloxham Primary School, Oxfordshire, with help from local arts organisation Animation Station. It tells the essential story, with snatches of the most familiar lines, using children’s drawings animated in a rudimentary but entirely effective manner. What gives the film its power is the use of the children’s voices to tell the story and voice the characters. They tell the story with enthusiasm and conviction. While with some schoolchildren’s online Shakespeare you sense the eagerness of the teacher but wonder about the pupils’ comprehension of what they are being asked to do, here it is clear that they were fully engaged in both play and project. It is a film to persuade anyone, of any age, of the play’s magical qualities. The applause at the end is a delightful idea, and entirely merited.

Links:
Vimeo page
Animation Station

The Many Coloured Messenger

Date: 2010
Posted by: Mary Martin
Cast: None
Credits: Animator: Mary Martin
Duration: 3.37

This exquisite animation was made in 2010 by an A-level student. Made up of over 1,000 painterly images, it takes Prospero’s words “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” and illustrates them in abstract fashion, showing a small green figure in an ever-changing landscape of colourful forms, while a clock denotes unstoppable time forever moving on. A remarkable piece of visual imagination, made all the more effective through the rhapsodic musical accompaniment with flute and piano. It’s a work of which an Oskar Fischinger or a Walter Ruttmann would have been proud. Here is how Shakespeare can play upon the creative mind.

Links:
YouTube page

Infinite Monkey Syndrome

Date: 2012
Posted by: James R. Ford
Cast: Not given
Credits: Produced by James R. Ford
Duration: 1.30

A few months ago it was reported that US programmer Jesse Anderson had set up a virtual set of some millions of monkeys (using Hadoop), all of them tying at random on virtual typewriters, and had managed produce something that was 99.99% Shakespeare – the first text to be achieved in this way being ‘A Lover’s Complaint’. Anderson had cut corners however, because every time the random typing came up with words that roughly matched something from the Shakespeare canon then they would be retained, if not then discarded. With this and other constraints, Anderson could achieve his goal. The purely random production of Shakespeare by an infinite number of monkeys remains something for the philosophers and theoretical mathematicians.

Or for a videomaker. This droll piece, made by British artist James R. Ford, is an extract from a 9 minutes 8 second loop (therefore designed in principle to run forever). It shows us a woman in a monkey suit, typing Shakespeare, as the tags to the video tell us, because otherwise we would not know (a photograph of the typewriter on the artist’s website indicates that only gibberish has been produced – so far). Is is a Shakespeare video? I say that it is – and so it is (and just to make the point this post has been tagged with all of the plays and poems). A video to watch, infinitely.

Jesse Anderson explains more about his project on this video:

Links:
YouTube page
BBC online news item on Jesse Anderson’s project
Jesse Anderson’s Million Monkeys Project
James R. Ford’s personal website

Caliban

Date: 2011
Posted by: Prospero
Cast: Prospero (himself), Roxana (Ariel)
Credits: Prospero, camera, editing, piano; music – Penderecki, String Quartet no. 2; Arvo Pärt , Magnificat
Duration: 4.08

A strange experimental work by a photographer (it appears) hiding under the name Prospero. None of his other video work indicates any Shakespearean interest, but presumably the choice of name led to some compulsion or other and to this work, named Caliban. It consists of a collection of varied, seemingly unconnected shots (though some refer to The Tempest, including sea, footprints on a beach, and maybe one of Prospero’s books) overlaid by a modern language dialogue between Prospero and Ariel, in which the fear is not of Caliban learning the language of words but rather that of images (he has been taking pictures on his cellphone, we learn). The weakness of the video is that it doesn’t take this concept much further than that, so that it serves as something for personal introspection rather than something to be shared with anyone else. But, as is the way with online video, we share these things anyay. Make of it what you will.

Links:
Vimeo page
Serendipitious Garden (Prospero’s blog)