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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Shakespeare In Love (1998)



Reviews and Comments

Has any English writer had a more resounding impact on western culture? More productions of William Shakespeare's work and more stories about the man himself have been made than I can keep track of. Shakespeare In Love is a romantic comedy involving Shakespeare, his love Viola, and the writing of Romeo and Juliet. It's a work of fiction, but attempts to be as consistent as possible with historical fact. It's a surprisingly involving story, which effectively juggles a romantic triangle, class issues, Elizabethan-era laws, anecdotes and vignettes about Shakespeare, the rules and culture of stagework of the Elizabethan era, comedy, inspiration, and passion without, at any time, becoming confused or lost in its own breadth or depth. Indeed, the story is told so well it is only after the fact that one realizes the vastness of its scope -- so wrapped up are we in the simple humanity of the characters.

And what a lavish production it is! The sets and costumes are meticulously constructed with the strictest of attention to detail and historical accuracy. This movie would be a joy even with the sound turned off, such a feast it is to the eyes. (These days, it's not easy for a film to be able to do that without the aid of computer generated special effects.) Its technical excellence is matched by its creativity; the script is polished with sound dialogue, clever in-jokes, and subtle finishing touches. And the use of scenes and themes from Romeo and Juliet had more resonance for me than in any production of the actual play that I've ever seen. I enjoyed the film immensely and appreciate it more the more I ponder on it. I'd like to think that Shakespeare himself would have been proud.