- Posted: 18th Oct 2012
- Category: Reviews
- Tags: Ali May,  rob curry,  anthony fletcher,  feature documentary,  theatrical
by Ali May
Tempest by Anthony Fletcher and Rob Curry is a film five years in the making, blending drama performance and documentary, to chart a heroic attempt to re-imagine Shakespeare's enigmatic last great play. Seventeen young actors from South London rehearse for the production and as their story unfolds so does that of Shakespeare's The Tempest.
Now before we go any further I will stop here to rather ashamedly admit that I have never read Shakespeare’s Tempest, and sadly this was probably my biggest stumbling block in trying to appreciate the film.
Tempest claims to “reveal the truths the mainstream media ignores, creating a vision of what it really means to be British in this Brave New World”, but I failed to make the connections and struggled to see much more than simply a film about an inner-city drama group rehearsing for a performance. Yes the film was done well but there was little real insight into the characters’ lives, how they were really changed by their experiences with drama and how the play (in the way it was portrayed) was really relevant to the social issues of today that it was trying to highlight. I fear that The Tempest was too abstract and subtle for a documentary that was trying to touch on all of this and unfortunately it just felt a bit schizophrenic; it was trying to be too many things at once.
Having said that, there were some really refreshing aspects to the film: we are introduced to the kids through interviews given in full Shakespearian character, and the way in which drama performance was interwoven with the documentary aspects of the film was expertly accomplished. The sound design - and animation especially - were absolutely fantastic, a beautiful touch that bridged the gap between the reality of the documentary and the surreal magic of Prospero's island as he conjures his spirits to regain his lost kingdom.
I got the impression that the filmmakers perhaps knew the story too well and were trying to be too clever because unfortunately to someone who does not know Shakespeare’s Tempest it felt a bit disjointed and cobbled together. For me, while being an imaginative piece of work, the film ultimately failed to fulfill its promise of being a testament to the transformative power of art.
I left the film with very little idea of what the story of The Tempest was - but I don’t want to be too negative as I do feel that it was my lack of prior knowledge that really affected the way I viewed this film. That's not to say that it isn’t a great piece of work; for those of you who do know the story of The Tempest, this may just be the magical re-imagining that you were waiting for.
The Tempest is released on Friday 2nd November in selected cinemas. Official site.
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