I have wanted to see this production for a long time because it stars one of my top favorite actresses, Parminder Nagra, in my favorite Shakespeare work.
Twelfth Night (2003, TV Movie)
the Cast: Parminder Nagra (Viola): She has a different presentation of Viola than I have seen in past productions. There is no comedy bit involving the girl getting used to being a man. Parminder encompasses masculinity, the only exception being the comedic knife fight. She is dominant and aggressive when Viola is usually portrayed as being afraid. Her performance is stunning. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Orsino): He takes a nose dive into the love sickness of his character. I don't think it is one of the stronger performances, but it is well done. Claire Price (Olivia): There is an airiness about her. An airhead, perhaps? Yes, I believe that suits the character. Not that her performance was bad, it's just how her character is traditionally portrayed. Michael Maloney (Malvolio): Just by watching his face, there was no mistaking which character this actor played when he first appeared. An arrogant man indeed. David Troughton (Sir Toby
Belch): His performance was kind of creepy. There is always an edge to Sir Toby since he has a notion to harass Malvolio, but this actor really played that part up. Richard Bremmer (Sir Andrew Aguecheek): His performance is very good, it was a traditional presentation of the character. Zubin Varla (Feste): As much as I enjoyed his comedic moments, I thought he was the best in his serious moments.
the Plot: Based on Shakespeare's comedy play. Viola and Sebastian are identical twins who are shipwrecked. Viola finds herself in Illyria where she disguises herself as a man, Cesario, in order to work for Orsino, who becomes her love interest. Orsino has Viola seduce Olivia, his love interest, for him. Toby and Andrew tease Olivia's steward, Malvolio. Olivia crosses paths with Sebastian and thinks he is the man she loves, Cesario. This version is unique in the multiracial cast, modern day setting, and use of the Hindi language in dialogue between Sebastian,his friend Antonio, and Viola.
Fave Scene: Viola and Olivia's first meeting. I think it is Parminder's shining moment in this production. She has quite a range to cover in this one scene: gawkiness, anger, and seduction.
the Costumes: A lot of the costumes could pass for modern day clothes but they definitely have an old, classy feel to them. This is mainly apparent in Viola and Sebastian's suits. I also particularly enjoyed the brightly colored costumes of Feste and Fabian.
the Score: The music is a great aid in setting the mood of the scenes with a South Asian feel to it. I particularly enjoyed the music for Feste's songs. My favorite was the "Oh Mistress Mine" song, very soft in its modern appeal.
the Set: It is another wonderful aspect in setting the mood. It mainly sets the general mood of the piece: dark. Even though this is a film, it had a stage set appearance to it. I enjoyed the exotic touch that the lookout at the sea brings to Orsino's abode. My favorite set decoration also falls into the category of costumes. When Viola, dressed in a sari, is in a men's clothing store, she is completely surrounded by suit jackets. That was fantastic.
the Cinematography/Editing: Flashbacks were used very well in this production. The flashbacks of previous scenes was an insight into the minds of the characters: the rapid clips of Viola as Olivia sees them and the shots of Olivia and Orsino during Viola's soliloquy. I also enjoyed the solitary shots of people such as Olivia's brother and father with a black background.
Overall Impression: In productions of this work, comedy usually dominates. The dark themes took over in this version. I think this approach was fascinating. All of the elements of a film were very well done. Even though it had a sense of being a stage production, this version could only truly work on film. I think this is a great film.
Final Score: ****/*****