Saturday, April 16, 2005

Scotland, Pa.

There are people out there who devote many years, if not their entire life, to studying the works of William Shakespeare. I have met some of these people. I am even friends with some of them.
I, however, am not one of them. For this reason, I always feel a bit awkward when discussing Shakespeare, because even though I know that I have a certain level of understanding of some of his works, I listen to my more learned friends discuss the topic and realize that they have an understanding of his entire collection of works that penetrates deeper than I even thought possible...deeper, I sometimes think, than even Shakespeare may have meant or realized. So I
don't feel much pressure to try and be too scholarly when it comes to Shakespeare because I know that there are others out there who can do it for me. If I need to know, for example, what the political climate was around the time that, say, Richard II was first produced, I can go up to my friend Andy and say, "Hey man, what was the political climate like around the time that Richard II was first produced?" Andy and the knowledgeable people like him walk around with all the Shakespeare knowledge, which leaves me free to just offer up whatever impressions I get when I see his work produced.

So I didn't exactly see a Shakespeare play on a stage anywhere. Instead, I watched
Scotland, Pa. last night. The relation to Shakespeare is that this movie is based on my absolute favorite of his plays, MacBeth. My reasons for liking this particulary play are pretty simple, just the fact that it's so creepy and bloody and gorey. Plus, I've always found evil women to be much more frightening than evil men. This might indicate sexist tendencies in me, I don't know.

So I really dug this film. It took the story of MacBeth and placed it in 1970's small town America, specifically the town of Scotland, Pennsylvania. And instead of the kingdom of Scotland, MacBeth and his beloved committed murder to acquire ownership of a fast food restaurant. I think the fact that the stakes were relatively lower served to bring the story closer to home. I mean, we
understand that people kill for kingdoms, that's just politics, but for a crappy little burger joint? Except then that made me think, maybe Shakespeare was making a joke about Scotland being a
shithole. Who knows. My friend Andy most likely, that's who knows. Anyway. They succeeded in translating many of the most important elements of the story, but they didn't bother with
keeping the original text, which worked great...had they tried that in the setting they chose, I think it would have flopped. I know that purists may scoff at such a notion, and point out the subtle brilliance of every bit of text and how it must be understood in context to Shakespeare's times and oh look at this double entendre and blah blah blah....but I think that Shakespeare gave us much more than brilliant text. He gave us incredible stories. Language evolves, but stories can be timeless, and at the end, that is what most people will remember. I would go so far as to say that the language wouldn't be shit without the great tales that the language tells. Shakespeare's text was amazing, there can be no doubt, and I believe there's still plenty of good reason to produce the original works. But this film is just another great example of why the works of the past should be revisited, reconsidered, and even reconstructed.

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