By Tressa Eckermann, Senior Staff Writer
Nebraska Shakespeare and UNO professor D. Scott Glasser are teaming up to help bring films from Shakespeare’s material to a wider audience.
Shakespeare on the Silver Screen will take place every Tuesday in February at Aksarben Cinema. The first film, which was shown on Feb. 7, was Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 adaptation of “Much Ado about Nothing.” Following that, on Valentine’s Day, will be the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli interpretation of “Romeo and Juliet.” On Feb. 21, “Julius Caesar,” filmed in 1953 and starring Marlon Brando, will be shown. The last film shown, on Feb. 28, will be “The Boys from Syracuse,” directed by A. Edward Sutherland in 1940. Following each film Vincent Carlson-Brown with Nebraska Shakespeare will interview Glasser.
Glasser, who teaches “Shakespeare on Film: The Art of Interpretation” at UNO, got involved with this event last year.
“They asked me to join them,” he said. “I wanted to get the word out on this course; it would be a way to reach out to the community beyond UNO.”
When choosing the films, Nebraska Shakespeare tried to line the films up with the dates they would be shown.
“When we found out that Valentine’s Day was one of our days, we chose ‘Romeo and Juliet,'” said Nellie Sudavicius MacCallum, marketing director for Nebraska Shakespeare.
They also looked at the plays they would be producing this summer. Both “Julius Caesar” and “The Boys from Syracuse” will be produced.
The “Much Ado about Nothing” screening began around 5:20 p.m. with appetizers in the lobby. Close to 6 p.m., the crowd filed into the theater, which was full, to sit down and watch Branagh’s beautiful interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s most accessible plays.
Branagh made the film after he had filmed his breakout movie, “Henry V,” in 1989. Starring himself, then-wife Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves, Kate Beckinsale, Robert Sean Leonard and Michael Keaton, his adaptation of “Much Ado” is a scrumptious and whimsical film.
Branagh, who has gone on to do two other Shakespeare adaptations, has always had an incredible ability to stage and execute Shakespeare’s work. This film is no exception. Even after almost 20 years, “Much Ado” is a lovely film that only serves to remind me how badly I wish Branagh would do another Shakespeare adaptation.
Filmed in Italy, the movie’s opening scenes with their stunning cinematography rank among some of the most beautiful in the film. Because it’s one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, it was important that Branagh used the right actors—himself included—to pull off some of the funnier scenes. One of the film’s best moments is the scene where Washington and Leonard’s characters attempt to set up Beatrice (Thompson) and Benedick (Branagh).
If there is one fault with the film, it’s some of the casting choices. Keanu Reeves doing Shakespeare? Probably not the best decision, and 20 years later it still strikes an odd note. And although time has been a little kinder to Keaton’s performance as Dogberry, it’s still a little hard to grasp. Glasser feels the same.
“Keaton did very good, if he was in another movie. It’s like they’re in two different films,” Glasser said, when talking about Keaton in relation to the other actors. He came to the defense of Reeves and Keaton during the question and answer section after the film.
“Both characters are extremely important to the plot, but have hardly any stage time,” Glasser said. He maintains that he’s seen many actors have a hard time trying to grasp those roles.
Tickets for each of the films are available at the Aksarben Cinema box office. Each showing is $10. The films start at 6 p.m. Appetizers provided by Jones Brothers, Wohlner’s, and Godfather’s pizza will be available in the lobby at 5:20 p.m. before the show.