13 August 2012 | ijblack1
Response to a review
On the whole, I agree with the many reviewers before me who praise Kenneth Branagh in general and "As You Like It" in specific. So, I don't have to reiterate their comments here. I am writing to rebut the review by teacher_tom516 who completely misunderstands the movie, the play and the term "suspension of disbelief." Starting with the last, Samuel Taylor Coleridge called it "the willful suspension of disbelief," the tacit agreement made by the audience to leave reality at the door of the theater and accept the production's conceit as a temporary new reality. All theater, with the exception of the mercifully brief 19th century flirtation with "Realism/Naturalism", recognizes that it is an illusion to try to present "reality" on stage. Shakespeare certainly knew that and even tells his audience this in several of his plays (Henry V, Hamlet, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, etc etc). His comedies are allegorical -- more subtly, so are his tragedies and even histories. His audiences accepted the premise without caviling over clocks striking in "Julius Caesar" and wild animals from different continents nonchalantly coexist. Shakespeare's Forest of Arden wasn't named for the Belgian Ardennes but taken from Lodge's romance "Rosalynde," from which Shakespeare cribbed his plot and characters. It is a magical place not found on maps -- it is the "Bitter Wood" of Medieval legend, the place where humans must face themselves, with or without Yoda. Arden was also Shakespeare's mother's family name. The writer plays the name game with the characters, seemingly unaware that Shakespeare's names are often chosen for their metaphoric associations. Falstaff is a "false staff" to Prince Hal. Why Orlando? Not because it's an Italian courtier's name, but because it's the Italian translation of Roland, the name of one of two legendary brothers-in-arms in the reign of Charlemagne, immortalized in "The Song of Roland." The other brother-knight's name was... Oliver! Also, It's Jaques, not Jacques, and may have been pronounced "Jakes", Brit slang for bathroom, which might be taken as ironic since he is such a pessimist, unlike his opposite, Touchstone, whose name might be taken as the iconic test of Truth. Do the hodge-podge of names in Hamlet disturb teacher_tom516? Claudius? Polonius? Laertes? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!?
His biggest complaint is about the Japanese setting. Obviously, he didn't read the opening on-screen explanation Mr. Branagh thoughtfully provided for the edification of anyone interested in it. Is the Meiji Japan of the imagination be any less exotic than the locale of "A Winter's Tale" -- "the coast of Bohemia."? Bohemia doesn't have a coast -- it's completely landlocked. Oh yes, how absurd a scrawny kid could throw a Sumo wrestler? That's the whole point. Ever hear of Jack the Giant-killer? Beware people who confuse the truths of fairy tales with the factoids of spreadsheets. Yes, Shakespeare plays fast and loose with facts - so do creative directors interpreting his plays. As Miguel de Cervantes said, "One should never let facts get in the way of Truth." He also said, "Facts are the enemy of Truth."