Film ReviewRichard III

P. Wheeler
October 02, 2000

Richard III

Director: Richard Loncraine
Screenplay: Richard Loncraine and Ian Mckellen
Starring: Ian Mckellen as Richard
Annette Bening as Queen Elizabeth
Kristin Scott Thomas as Lady Anne
Maggie Smith as Duchess of York
Date: 1995
Time: 1 hour 44 minutes

“Civil war divides the nation,” the first caption we see at the onset of this adaptation of
Shakespeare’s Richard III sets the tone for scenes to come later in the movie. It starts by focusing on Shakespeare’s underlying tone regarding Richard as somewhat an outlandish character to be mocked and amused by. Enter Richard to “stab” Edward in his war room at Tewkesbury in his tank. He then fills Edward full of holes with a gun rather than a sword to start the play on words that Richard is known for throughout the play.
Set in the midst of a Nazi-like Britain during the 1930’s, it provides more art deco and imagery than is actually in the text. It uses this as the opening focus to show Richards’ ascent to power and his eventual downfall more as the leader of a fascist regime, than someone cunning for the role of King. Here big band jives lay the groundwork to the victory ball of King Edward where we are introduced to many of the characters not seen until much later in the text, Rivers, King Edward, Queen Elizabeth, Duchess of York, young York, etc. Richard then begins his soliloquy, “Now is the winter of our discontent...” He partially addresses the crowd to show support for his newly indoctrinated King and brother and the first half of his speech is received by warm applause at his play on words. The second half is completed at the urinal of the palaces’ bathroom partly mumbled to the wall. His focus on his villainous ways addressed to the camera. Then he meets Clarence on his way to the Tower to await his execution. The Richard speaks of the forthcoming death of Clarence and his need to marry the Lady Anne, addressed to the camera.

This differs greatly from the text, which opens immediately with his speech addressed to the audience only, and is completed before any other characters are introduced. We do not meet Lord Hastings here as he is released from the Tower.
The next startling visual encountered is by Lady Anne as she walks the halls of a blood-riddled hospital in search of her dead husbands’ body. Richard finds here in the morgue where she speaks of the holes (gunshots, not sword) that killed here husband. The wooing of Lady Anne is completed amongst the corpses, but not without Richard offering her equipment used for an autopsy to stab him in the neck to pay for his murderous deed. Than for the austerity of the ludicrous nature of this film, Richard pulls his wedding band out of his mouth.
This also varied tremendously from the text as we do not encounter the funeral procession King Henry VI, but are shown his son instead who has been deceased for sometime. The following scene after Richard asks Lady Anne to bid her farewell and he agrees to deliver the King’s body are, cut completely from the script.
The next few scenes are highlighted by the burning of the pardon for Clarence at the hands of Richard, but not before we see Queen Elizabeth breakfasting with young York and her brother in full Indian headdress and Tyrell feeding a boar at the stable. These scenes are not a part of the original text and have been added as a means of introduction to various intricate characters. Here Richard meets Tyrell and discusses the “execution” of a friend. This scene is out of order and cut drastically from its original format. A page introduces Tyrell, in the text, after Richard is already King to commit the murders of his nephews, the princes. .
Clarence is the fetched from the catacombs of the Tower and brought to an enclosed circle where he delivers his soliloquy on his dream of drowning while it rains. This differs from the text as Clarence does not tell Brackenbury about his dream entirely, nor is it done in his cell. The rain is added as perhaps a means to cleanse his soul.
The next few sequences