The Winter's Tale -- Becoming the Dream

John Carlisle

Triangulating Shakespeare


. . .In filming the chapel scene, our group used a variety of shots, blocking, and camera angles to convey a certain reading of the scene. We wanted the opening line of Leontes to be an aside or inner thought rather than having it directed towards Paulina. We felt this would add to the trance-like state of Leontes. This was accomplished by zooming in and beginning with a close up of Leontes. After the line is spoken, the camera widens its angle of view to include the rest of the procession entering the garden. Paulina leads the group with Leontes in front who follows with reluctance because he believes the statue is in the gallery from which they just came. The procession moves slowly towards the statue as Paulina speaks. She's in no hurry to reveal her secret that has been kept for twenty years and wants to maximize the anticipation of Leontes.

The BBC version handles the entrance differently in that the procession fills the chapel first with Leontes entering last. This also implies the reluctant of Leontes who confronts Paulina at the doorway saying that they didn't see what they came to see. At this, Paulina leads him across the room to the curtain. When Paulina reveals the statue, we get a shot from behind of Leontes showing him standing a good distance from the piece while Perdita is closest to it. This interprets a Leontes who still recognizes his sins and realizes he may not be welcome by either Paulina or Hermoine to come any closer.

As the scene proceeds, one significant shot from our video is one from Hermoine's perspective, looking down on Leontes as he says "O royal piece. . .". This interprets Hermoine as being of greater virtue and as one to be looked up to in her greatness. For this speech, the BBC uses a close up of Leontes looking off camera towards the statue. When Camillo and Polexines see the emotion welling up in Leontes they approach and comfort him, forming a barrier between Leontes and the statue.

In our video, we put a lot of emphasis on the "rebirth" of Hermoine. Our first concept was to make the process of returning to life very slow and labored and second, that her rebirth would be accompanied with sunrise, symbolizing new life. The BBC statue simply moved into the living without any resistance; perhaps interpreting a Hermoine who had been living all along rather than one awakened by magic.

The most symbolic shot in our scene occurs as Hermoine slowly reaches out her hand towards Leontes. As Leontes clasps her hand, the image is held briefly, symbolizing their reunion, before Leontes continues into the shot. In the BBC, we don't see Leontes touch her. Instead, the director is more interested in the facial expression of Leontes as he feels her, which is all we see. Each idea is important, but it is clear that they cannot be combined because shooting each at the same time would cheapen them both.

Both the film and the video handle the final sequence similarly, using a shot of Paulina removed from the group, announcing that she will be old and lonely. While the BBC uses a cut, our version simply reverses the zoom to show Leontes and family moving into the shot of the entire group which is similar in each case. While the BBC has Polexines and Hermoine smile and nod to each other, we chose to have them kiss cheeks, emphasizing their reassurance that all is well. Though each production takes a different approach to this aspect of the scene, an overall feeling of joy radiates from each.

When looking critically at the final product of our scene, I think it is best summed up as a project with great intentions, but less than adequate execution resulting from high expectations and poor technical translation of the material. Nevertheless, the scene has some good traits that are worthy of praise. One impressive aspect is Jen's performance as Perdita. Her voice quality and the way she speaks her lines captures the wonder in Perdita, marveling at the statue of her mother. The best part of Leontes' performance was the "O royal piece" speech, which happens to be my favorite line of the part because it captures the magic of Hermoine, the recognition of Leontes' sins, and the wonder of Perdita, all with powerful emotion. Tami did an excellent job as the statue. As Hermoine slowly came to life, she seemed aware of every small movement of her body. . . .

. . .

The Time scene is perhaps the best realized and produced scene in the video. Through Monique's exquisite performance and voice we were convinced that Time has all-knowing, god-like qualities and possesses the ability to make sixteen years pass with a flap of her wings. Well-directed camera work creates the illusion of placelessness that Frank wanted to convey. The cuts of Time moving in a circular motion from place to place effectively invokes a passage of time. The only thing that I would change is the special fabric placed in Monique's hair. The effect they were looking for just didn't happen on video. Instead, I would simply brush her hair out, straight as it is, and allow it to blow in the wind. Otherwise, the Time scene is "masterly done."

Working on our own video productions has provided some unique insights into Shakespeare which has made my experience of The Winter's Tale unlike that of other Shakespeare plays. The process of learning a character became a powerful learning tool which unlocked the sublties of the play. When I first read my part in act V, I had not read the play or seen the BBC version; the words were cold and isolated. My initial fear was wondering if I could memorize all the lines, let alone act them. At first I had only a vague idea of how the words might sound in context of the scene itself, but after reading and viewing the play, the words started to come alive. In group rehearsal, I became aware of Paulina as a character who had power over Leontes. I see her as a puppeteer, toying with Leontes' emotions. Once I understood the reasoning behind the words, their significance to the character and the play as a whole became clear. One of the obstacles to learning the lines was getting used to the grammer. At first it was tedious, but then it all seemed to fall together at once. The words became a pleasure to speak and beautiful to hear.

Working on this video made me realize the limitless potential of the medium. The camera inspires creativity because it gives us the power to make people see exactly what we want them to see. It's a way of tranferring the mind's eye into visual interpretation; into physical reality. This has been an unforgetable, enlightening experience which has given the play a deeper meaning and a permanent spot in my memory.


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