Shakespeare would be proud

If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s time to crawl out from under that rock and find yourself some culture.






I’d like to start this blog post by saying I genuinely enjoyed creating a movie trailer. I choose to recut Shakespeare in Love (John Madden—not the sports tycoon, as it turns out—1998). I don’t remember the first time I saw Shakespeare in Love, but I’ve pretty much been in love with it for the better part of the last several years. I enjoyed my recutting experience, I think, because it allowed me to watch Shakespeare in Love for about 12 hours. 

The story follows Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) as he searches for the muse who will cure his writer’s block. Instead of a simple writer’s block cure, he falls in love with Viola De Lessups (Gwyneth Paltrow), a wealthy merchant’s daughter who is engaged to the not very smiley Lord Wessex (Colin Firth). The supporting cast is also phenomenal and includes Ben Affleck, Geoffrey Rush, Rupert Everett, Tom Wilkinson, and, my personal favorite, Judi Dench. For my movie, Star-crossed, I chose to rework the story so that Shakespeare and Lord Wessex fall in love but are kept apart by a society reluctant to accept homosexuality. Unlike Shakespeare in Love, Star-crossed doesn’t really focus on the fact that Shakespeare is one of the greatest writers in all of English literature nor does it feature any sort of sustained comedic relief.

Shakespeare would totally appreciate his play turning into a meme. Well, really, Romeo and Juliet were memes before he made them super famous.

When recutting the trailer, I, like every other person in class, found the concept of semiotics to be useful. However, I also felt like I was engaging memetics during the project. As Ron Hale Evans defines it, “a meme is a self-reproducing idea,” (Hale Evans, 100). I would argue that the story of Romeo and Juliet has become a meme; it’s been told so many times in so many cultures. John Madden’s take on this particular meme was to place Shakespeare in his own story, and I built on that by updating the romance to reflect our culture’s current interest in homosexuality. I also spent a lot of time thinking about the various Chuck Klosterman articles we’ve read and discussed this semester. Klosterman seems to have a preoccupation with the idea of fake emotions: fake love and fake laughter specifically. When creating my trailer, I definitely played into the idea of guiding my audience’s feelings. However, I don’t find this concept as morally corrupt as Klosterman seems to find it. (Klosterman, 174) Using background noise to convey emotion is, to me, simply a tool used to set the tone. Because the trailer needed to convey intense emotion in two short minutes, I turned to the various camera techniques described by Bernard Dick. I found myself using close ups frequently. It feels like half the shots in my trailer are just close ups of Wessex and Shakespeare, shots used in order to “point up the intense emotion of tragedy,” (Dick).

As discussed, my trailer relies a lot on shots of Shakespeare and Wessex gazing at things. I found that serious romantic movies rely on eye contact and facial expression to convey meaning, and I definitely utilized those tools when creating my trailer. I also found that instrumental music and ambiguous text goes along way toward creating the right romantically tragic mood. I decided to break up a verse from Romeo and Juliet and put it on title pages throughout the trailer in order to convey a sense of a passionate and tempestuous romance between Shakespeare and Wessex. Initially, I wasn’t going to use any lines from the movie, but I ended up overlaying a couple of the most passionate lines in order to show the audience that I mean for Shakespeare and Wessex to be in love, not just creep-staring at each other. Also, I found that a lot of romantic trailers end with an emotional line, so I isolated one of the more poignant lines and dropped it in at the end.

I suspect that the world would be a happier place if Colin Firth smiled all the time.

In terms of frustrations with this project, I did not have a lot of major ones. My biggest issue concerned the fact that Colin Firth. Does. Not. Smile. In. This. Movie. Like, at all. He’s either stone faced or angry. This made it a little difficult to prove that he’s in love with Shakespeare. Also, there wasn’t a lot of straight dialogue in the movie. Even in some of the scenes where they are performing Romeo and Juliet there is a little bit of background music. The first line that I overlaid into my trailer sounds kind of ridiculous because the background music is so loud. I don’t know if that’s what life was like during the Renaissance, but I would have tired of it rapidly. That brings me to another small problem I had: finding music. I have now spent more time that necessary searching things like “Renaissance music,” “english renaissance music,” “said english renaissance music,” and “romantic sad english renaissance music” on YouTube. Anything for Shakespeare, I suppose.

Bernard Dick (2002). “Film, space, and image,” excerpt from Anatomy of Film. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s.

Ron Hale-Evans (2006). “Hack #26. Enjoy clean memetic sex,” Mind Performance Hacks. San Francisco: O’ Reilly Press

Chuck Klosterman (2004). “This is emo,” in Sex, drugs and Cocoa-Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto.

Chuck Klosterman (2009). “Ha ha, he said. Ha ha,” excerpt from Eating the dinosaur. New York: Scribner Press.

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