Generally, I responded to Richard III’s 1930s setting with mixed feelings. I think that at points the imagery and character portrayals work very well, even to be called grippingly artistic in some scenes, as the one where Anne delivers her speech to the three-generation Elizabeth lineage near the wine garden. However, for the most part in the exception of those few scenes, the 1930s setting is awkward for me. I am one to agree that the 1930s do seem as “ancient and obscure” as the fifteenth century, but I would’ve much rather seen a fifteenth century setting for the artistry; not in the same right as Olivier made his films, but a modern film set in those times, like Shakespeare in Love, for example. Yet, I am also one who tends to think that Shakespeare’s plays should stay “within” that time period on screen.
As far as deciding whether the setting created a gimmicky feeling, I’m not sure. The costuming was exquisite and Loncraine pulled off a modern approach to war well, but the choppy quality of the story really threw me away from its captivity. For example, the scene in the play where Richard kills off Anne’s husband, and furthermore, almost every death that Richard orders with the exception of Clarence, isn’t seen in the film version. I think that greater connections, less confusion, and less awkward chops would be the result of Loncraine placing those scenes in the film. They show Clarence being murdered and the audience really gets that sense that Richard is ruthless.
After viewing the film, I realize that observation of the mixture of British and American accents. Many critics have debated which is better to perform Shakespeare with, and it seems that the American accent, as reported in class, is much closer to the tongue of the people that performed Shakespeare’s plays at the Globe. However, the 1930s setting works better in a British context than it would in an American one. This is due to the monarchy that still exists in England and is seen in Richard’s coronation in the film, where he dawns crown and robe along with all of his subordinates in their crowns and robes. It just simply isn’t as nonsensical in England as it would be in America.
“The genre that Loncraine most relentlessly and effectively exploits is the 1930s American gangster film” (Crowl, 115). This is seen best in the last scene homage to White Heat, where Richard dies in the same right that Cagney did, an explosion. “Critics reaped scorn Richard’s uttering, ‘A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!’ while anachronistically riding in a jeep” (Rothwell, 224). I think that scene, while others including the final duel do not, works within the world of the film. Since there were horses introduced in the film, and though unlikely that he would actually get away from a tank on a horse, his jeep is broke down and Richard wishes for a horse. It makes sense.