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Shakespeare on Film

December 3 – January 5

From December 3 to January 5, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents Shakespeare on Film, a series of ten film adaptations of the Bard, the 400th anniversary of whose death has been commemorated throughout the world in 2016.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) has been by far the most fertile literary source for movies. The IMDb database currently lists 1,189 films based on his work. With such an embarrassment of riches, one needs to set parameters for the sake of winnowing down the choices.

Our first guideline was that the most essential element of Shakespeare's plays is the language; ergo, the films in this series should be rooted in Shakespearean language. The screenplay might (and, with the exception of Branagh's HAMLET, invariably does) prune and rearrange the original text, and transpose it to another time or place, but what's left is still essentially the Bard's words. Some remarkable films have creatively reimagined Shakespeare without retaining the language — FORBIDDEN PLANET, THRONE OF BLOOD, WEST SIDE STORY, THE LION KING, to name just a few — but we have placed them outside the boundaries of this series. To narrow the choices further, as well as to increase variety, we have included only one version of each selected play, and only one film by each director.

Of course, Shakespeare's contributions to cinema can be measured by more than numbers. The richness of his imagery, the durability of his stories, and the universality of his characters have provided an incomparable stimulus for the skills and imaginations of countless actors and filmmakers.

Martin Rubin, Associate Director of Programming