Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
United Kingdom/USA, 1995. Mayfair Entertainment International, British Screen Productions, Bayly/Paré Productions, United Artists Pictures, First Look International. Screenplay by Ian McKellen, Richard Loncraine, based on the play by William Shakespeare. Cinematography by Peter Biziou. Produced by Stephen Bayly. Music by Trevor Jones. Production Design by Tony Burrough. Costume Design by Shuna Harwood. Film Editing by Paul Green.
So much effort has been put into the design of this stylish adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most violent plays that the original material is sunken into the background to very bad effect. Set in a magical fantasy version of World War II, the film stars Ian McKellen as a Naziesque Richard looking to do whatever it takes to put himself upon the throne, including murdering his own siblings and then marrying the woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) whose husband he also killed. Performances are excellent, especially Scott Thomas and Annette Bening as Queen Elizabeth, but the material has been dumbed down so much and the dialogue rewritten to the point of obscurity, robbing the film of most of its possibilities. It also doesn’t help that while McKellen’s Richard is tough and swaggers around to the meanest effect, his performance is shallow and never as much fun as it should be. Instead of the visual style enhancing the story, it ends up overpowering it. Maggie Smith is fantastic as McKellen’s mother, a woman not too proud of what she has brought up to rule England.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Art Direction; Best Costume Design
Berlin Film Festival Award: Best Director (Richard Loncraine) (tie)
European Film Award: Best European Actor (Ian McKellen)
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Actor-Drama (Ian McKellen)