Film Review – Twelfth Night (1969)

Twelfth Night Cover

It’s film review time again. And I was super excited for this one because OBI-WAN KENOBI plays Malvolio. That’s right, everyone’s favourite Jedi master (after Yoda, of course) is in a Shakespeare play. It’s probably what he earned the knighthood for. Anyway, after that bit of geeking out, let’s move on to the film itself.

First off, this was originally aired on television in 1969 so the backgrounds are obviously painted landscapes and the costumes while beautiful and vaguely Elizabethan still manage to have that 60s feel. So let’s go over our main characters. Duke Orsino has a bit of a weird hairdo going on (most of the men in this movie do, sadly, except for OBI-WAN!) but the guy himself is actually not bad looking, if you take a gander at some of the photos on his IMDb page. In an interesting choice that avoids the whole suspension of disbelief issue, the actress who plays Viola/Cesario also plays Sebastian. As a result, she ends up doing two man voices, one for Viola pretending to be Cesario and one for Sebastian. An impressive range (at least in my opinion, as I can barely do a man voice at all unless I have a cold).

Viola

Viola post-shipwreck

The actress playing Olivia (who is featured most prominently on the film cover at the top of this post) is actually very pretty and she gets some fantastic dresses. As for the rest of the clothes, a lot of men in tights and then fancy jackets. On the bright side, Viola’s man-clothes are just like every other man in the production, which makes the cross-dressing much more acceptable.

The play itself is very well done with only minor changes to get the film to its 1 hour 47 minutes run time include flipping the first two scenes so that Viola arrives at Illyria before the Duke gives his excellent speech about music being the food of love. Also, while I didn’t notice it explicitly, some of the servant hijinks were cut down. The two most interesting choices made for the film is that Viola, dressed as a woman, first sees Duke Orsino before deciding to cross-dress and join his court and that all soliloquies are done as voice-overs. The first choice made for an interesting melding of the first two scenes and added a dash of love at first sight to the plot. The second choice got a bit awkward with Viola’s facial expressions while the voice-over played.

Now, on to OBI-WAN as Malvolio. He is deliciously pretentious prior to the come-uppance and I wish I could convey to you the ridiculousness that is seeing this man with yellow stockings cross-gartered. Sadly, Google has failed me once again (I guess that’s what I get for watching obscure Shakespeare adaptations).

Twelfth Night is interesting because Shakespeare includes so many songs (sung almost exclusively by the Clown) and seeing how adaptations deal with Shakespearean songs is always a bit of an adventure. This version proves how much of a product of its time it is by giving them a very folksy feel (reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel).

Clown and Maria

Clown: I am such a good singer. Maria: Mmm, yeah, about that...

Following the final resolution of the play with Olivia and Orsino getting their respective twins, most of the cast goes off the stage in a procession (hello favourite closing exit of every Shakespearean adaptation watched so far) and then (as is written in the play), the Clown sings a song. However, the best (or possibly worst) part of this is that the lighting on the set goes very blue with a single spot on the actor, which just makes me giggle and think of 80s tv specials for various musicians. So not a bad film overall and you do get to see OBI-WAN, but don’t rush out to get your hands on a copy of this.

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