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Introduction to Looking for Richard

America's Oldest Surviving Feature Film is the 1912 production of Richard III starring Frederick Warde. Since then stage performances have been filmed many times.

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Looking for Richard is documentary and a dramatic transformation of parts of Shakespeare’s Richard III into film – a familiar medium for young people to lift him off the printed page.  The silver screen is a more effective medium to depict the craft of performance and highlight the power of Shakespeare’s language. The Camera is more mobile and can go to the supposed birthplace of Shakespeare and the site of the Globe Theatre and come in much closer to the characters.

Pacino's purpose is to give life to his own passion for the plays. His methods are decidedly unconventional. Looking for Richard is a condensed version of "Richard III" wrapped in a stream-of-consciousness documentary.

 Drama scripts known as the text are merely the blue print or skeleton of a work of drama and what gives them body, shape or flesh and blood is performance.  Performance, either on stage or in film, relies on sub-text to convey meaning, often sub-consciously. Each performance is ephemeral; a new interpretation of a play seen by thousands while a film becomes a permanent theatrical text, the same each time it is repeated that can be viewed by millions over the years.

Therefore a film can have a lasting effect and either subvert or reinforce the text of a play.

Especially in drama or film, body language through stance, position, deportment, facial expression, posture and thousands of subtle features convey meaning.  Then there are the other cinematic features, such as approach, staging, casting, props, sound effects, lighting and costumes that influence how a play creates and we derive meaning.  These are factors that must be valued and the director’s role is critical in determining how a play is presented and received by a live pulsating audience.

Performance communicates instantaneously – “a picture is worth a 1000 words” so language is secondary and often difficult to follow.

They say that “pictures never lie”, but we know this is a half-truth. Through various filmic techniques, pictures and especially moving images can manipulate the viewer’s emotions and distort the actual truth of the scenes they depict.

Meaning in a film is created by cinematography also called mise en scene or sub- text.   Spectacle includes colour, sound and language. Everything on stage or in the frame speaks to us and we need to learn how these elements affect us and create meaning for us. 

Sensual awareness is crucial so composers try to recapture scenes and objects through the appeal of the five senses, visual, tactile, olfactory, auditory, gustatory.

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