Director: Derek Jarman
Notable Cast: Heathcote Williams, Toyah Wilcox, Jack Birkett
The queer, avant-garde filmmaker Derek Jarman made this adaptation on the heels of his cult classic, Jubilee (1977), which also featured the character Ariel and text from Shakespeare’s play. For The Tempest, Jarman adapted the text heavily, cutting many lines and reordering scenes to make the play fit his cinematic vision. Jarman had a limited budget, so he shot the film in and around Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire, England. This gives the film a dark, gothic tone, as opposed to the more exotic, tropical tone of Shakespeare’s remote island. Despite Jarman’s experimental approach to the play, critics have largely praised his “bizarre” but “fascinating” take. In addition to being a noteworthy adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, Jarman’s The Tempest also remains a significant document of queer cinema.
Director: Julie Taymor
Notable Cast: Helen Mirren, Djimon
Famed stage director Julie Taymor adapted Shakespeare’s play for the screen with one significant twist: she changed the gender of the play’s protagonist. Instead of Prospero we have Prospera, played by the accomplished British actor Helen Mirren. In addition to this change, Taymor’s adaptation features her signature phantasmagoric visual style as well as striking sound and costume design, all of which brings elements of the modern world to the remote island setting. However, despite Taymor’s many innovations, critics found the film emotionally flat. Several critics also noted that changing Prospero’s gender did not radically alter the play. Nevertheless, the film offers students of the play a spellbinding visual production that captures the sense of magic and illusion so prominent in Shakespeare’s original.