Whenever someone decides they are going to make a film of a play by William Shakespeare, every single one sees some kind of cut to the text. A lot of these plays are long and unwieldy, borne out of a dramatic structure very different to that of cinema. This could be anything from cutting a couple of lines out of a monologue to tighten things up a little to dispensing of entire characters and plot lines because they want a more focused story. For instance, Laurence Oliver made his own “Hamlet” back in 1948, which is still the only Shakespeare adaptation to win Best Picture, and large chunks of the play were removed for the film. Olivier wanted to create an intensely intimate portrayal of the titular character, which meant getting rid of a lot of the political subterfuge and machinations that go on in the story. His version came in at 155 minutes long.
Kenneth Branagh’s previous two Shakespeare adaptations, “Henry V” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” also endured some minor cutting. However, when it came time to make him magnum opus, his 70mm extravaganza of the greatest play ever written, he was going to do the whole thing. Every word. Not only was the film going to contain the entirety of the play found in the First Folio, but also bring in all the other stuff found in the Second Quarto, plus any other words written for the play at any time by Shakespeare. It is an extremely bold choice that only someone with the stature of Branagh would be able to do, and he went for it.
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