Today is the day the guy who basically ensured we have a culture died. We study his works in schools, name books from his prolific output and if we’re lucky, see a Globe Theatre performance. Shakespeare always meant for his plays to be enjoyed through performance so here through completely objective means (that is, my opinion) we list the best film/television adaptations in the last five years (Because 10 things I Hate About You is so 1999).
1. Empire (2015)
Empire is the breakout star of 2015 and one that consistently gained higher ratings with each episode. It is a retelling of King Lear set in the glamorous world of hip hop and RnB. Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) runs a successful record label and must choose which of his three sons to hand over the empire, much like King Lear dividing the kingdom between his three daughters. But as with Lear, he is losing his mind over all the power he has amassed and it is only a matter of time that he can control his business with the sharks closing in.
2. Cymbeline (2014)
Think Shakespeare meets Sons of Anarchy. This film follows a war between law enforcement and a biker gang led by Cymbeline, who is played by Ed Harris. Cymbeline’s daughter Imogen (Dakota Johnson) has secretly married Posthumus (Penn Badgely) and her father banishes him when he comes to find out about the affair. Typical shenanigans ensue involving poison, costumes on Halloween, a greedy queen planning murder and a daughter who refuses to marry the queen’s son. The highlight of the play is watching Dakota Johnson go from reciting “Enlighten me, then” in 50 Shades of Grey to “Sir, it is your fault that I have loved Posthumus; you bred him as my playfellow.”
3. Haider (2014)
Haider is a retelling of Hamlet from the amazing Vishal Bhardwaj of Omkara and Maqbool fame. Set against the backdrop of the 1995 Kashmir insurgency, Haider just gives Hamlet, Prince of Denmark a complete makeover. His father who is a doctor is murdered by men who accuse him of consorting with pro-separitists and Haider (Shahid Kapoor, in the performance of a lifetime) must avenge him. Instead of having an actual “ghost”, Bhardwaj brings in a mystic named Roohdar (Irfaan Khan) who tells Haider that his father was murdered by his own uncle. With his uncle getting close with Haider’s mother (Tabu), Haider is indecisive about what to do. The cinematography is just breathtaking with blood shining against the stark snow, keeping very much in character with the supernatural elements of the play.
4. Coriolanus (2011)
This whole movie is on point with the casting. Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, it is a powerhouse of superb acting. Caius Martius Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes) is a man who believes in government and the good that it can do. A successful army general he decides to dabble in politics wherein lies his downfall. The setting is updated from Ancient Rome to modern day Serbia. The dialogue is Shakespearean but in light of the Arab Spring, this film could not have been more relevant.
5. The Tempest (2010)
In a fantastic twist, the male protagonist Prospero is recast as the female, Prospera (played by the always amazing Helen Mirren). Determined to restore herself as the rightful Duchess of Milan and make her daughter Miranda the queen, she conjures up a storm to lure her usurping brother to the island. Hailed as the final play that Shakespeare wrote, it is widely considered his farewell to the world as he retired from playwriting.