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As You Like It - The Ex-Communicator

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January 25th, 2009

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11:01 pm - As You Like It
I saw Kenneth Branagh's As You Like It last night. I felt the same as I did with his Magic Flute. The setting was bold, and boldly realised, and it was beautiful to look at, but I didn't think it made much sense at all. The play is set in 19th century Japan, in a European enclave. Which allowed beautiful artificial costumes and interiors.

I don't know the play very well, but I think he hacked it down too much, because it just proceeded by a series of inexplicable but vivid events without any coherence. I have a feeling (guess) that Branagh felt that the play was basically a nonsense underpinned by poetry so he decided not to fight it, to make the plot even more ridiculous and surreal, but to support the emotional performances. I thought the acting was very good. Brian Blessed plays the good and evil brothers really well. Kevin Kline plays the melancholic Jaques with a gentle touch. Bryce Dallas Howard was good as Rosalind.

But for me, the lack of coherent structure spoils a film or play. I like a sparser chillier style with an implacable logic more than a lush emotional set of scenes without structure. But it wasn't poor, it just wasn't quite what I like best. I still admire Branagh for his vitality in giving Shakespeare to us in lots of different ways.

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