Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline on film


This video says about itself:

11 March 2015

Official trailer for ‘Cymbeline‘ starring Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich, John Leguizamo, Penn Badgley and Dakota Johnson.

By David Walsh in the USA:

Cymbeline: Michael Almereyda returns to Shakespeare

11 April 2015

A decade and a half ago, Michael Almereyda, the American filmmaker, directed a modern-day version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet with Ethan Hawke in the lead role. We wrote that “Almereyda…has seen the play as the tragedy of idealistic youth caught up and destroyed by official greed and corruption.” Hawke’s Hamlet, we commented, “is not a tour de force performance, but an element of a calm, serious approach to the play.”

Almereyda (born 1959), who has had an uneven filmmaking career, perhaps not all his fault, has now returned to Shakespeare, but to one of his lesser known and less frequently performed plays, Cymbeline. The work is not a complete success, but it has an urgency and seriousness that are unusual in American movies at present, and is certainly worth viewing (it is available online).

The original play is set in ancient Britain. The British king Cymbeline (a historical figure who lived around the time of Christ, although much of the play is based on legends and literary sources, or was simply invented by Shakespeare) has stopped paying tribute to the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. War threatens. Complicating matters, Cymbeline’s daughter Imogen has secretly married a man raised in her father’s court, Posthumus Leonatus, infuriating the monarch, who wants her to marry Cloten, the brutish son of his second (and treacherous) wife.

Posthumus is banished. In Rome, he encounters the sinister Iachimo. The latter bets Posthumus that he can seduce Imogen and bring Posthumus evidence of his triumph.

When Iachimo later pays Imogen a visit at the British court, she angrily rejects his advances. Nonetheless, he manages to produce sufficient fraudulent “proofs” of her infidelity back in Rome to convince Posthumus. In a letter, he instructs his servant, Pisanio, to kill Imogen after luring her to Milford Haven, on the west coast of Wales. However, in the course of their trip there, Pisanio shows Imogen the fateful message and urges her to carry on to the Haven dressed as a boy.

Meanwhile, Cymbeline’s other two sons, believed to be dead twenty years previously, were actually kidnapped by an unfairly disgraced nobleman, Belarius, and live a relatively idyllic existence in the Welsh mountains. Their real sister, Imogen, calling herself Fidele (“the faithful one”) now stumbles on Belarius and the two youths in their lair and is welcomed as a member of their household. Cloten, having been unceremoniously rejected by Imogen, sets out after her with bloody, sadistic revenge on his mind.

Ultimately, a battle takes place between the invading Romans and the native forces, which goes badly for the Britons until Posthumus, Belarius and the king’s two sons (although they are still ignorant of their royal birth) make a stand. Everything unravels and unfolds in a lengthy final scene, with relatively benign results. Forgiveness and reconciliation are the order of the day. In fact, it is one of Shakespeare’s few plays about “tumultuous broils” that end on a harmonious note, so much so that even King Cymbeline seems surprised: “Never was a war did cease…with such a peace.”

Almereyda has transposed the action to contemporary America. Cymbeline (Ed Harris) is the head of a motorcycle gang at odds with corrupt police, i.e., the Romans. Posthumus (Penn Badgley) is a somewhat unlikely, skateboarding member of the gang hopelessly but immaturely smitten with Imogen (Dakota Johnson, daughter of Melanie Griffith and grand-daughter of Tippi Hedren). The scheming Iachimo (Hawke) shows Posthumus apparently compromising photos of Imogen on his iPad. And so forth.

The director has retained the general outlines of the play, although the national-patriotic British element is obviously downplayed. The language is still Shakespeare’s, but Almereyda has edited it down perhaps by half and also re-arranged portions of it.

Like all such modernizing attempts perhaps, this Cymbeline has its ups and downs. The greatest strengths of the film, as they were of Almereyda’s Hamlet, are its simplicity and directness. The filmmaker does without special effects, bombast or much effort to explain his choices. The film simply begins near a baseball diamond at night, with Imogen’s lines to Posthumus from Act I, Scene II, or a slightly amended version of them: “Look here, love; / This diamond was my mother’s: take it, heart; / But keep it till you woo another wife, / When Imogen is dead,” and proceeds from there.

The scene between Iachimo and Imogen in which he attempts to seduce her, by slandering Posthumus, and then changes tack, pretending that his effort was merely a test of her loyalty to her husband, is well done. Johnson is not always up the challenge, but her sincerity in playing Imogen—one of Shakespeare’s great female characters—wins one over, here and in other sequences. She is effective and moving when she tells Iachimo early on in the scene: “You do seem to know / Something of me, or what concerns me: pray you, — / Since doubting things go ill often hurts more / Than to be sure they do; for certainties / Either are past remedies, or, timely knowing, / The remedy then born—discover to me / What both you spur and stop.”

Milla Jovovich, who has generally been stuck in stupid films, is a revelation as the scheming queen, a would-be Lady Macbeth. Her version of Bob Dylan’s “Dark Eyes” is also memorable. Delroy Lindo as Belarius stands out, as do Vondie Curtis-Hall, as Caius Lucius, the leader of the Romans, Peter Gerety as the doctor, and Kevin Corrigan, in a small part, as the hangman. The others are generally adequate or better.

Almereyda told an interviewer: “I’m very grateful to actors who will work for low budgets because that shows true commitment. So everyone who was involved in this movie was working because they wanted to collaborate with William Shakespeare.”

The imagery is relatively creative and thoughtful, the score is disturbing, melancholy. This is a film without a wide range of emotions, they remain mostly on the somber side, but those explored are seriously explored. The overall mood is one of sympathy for the young, the marginalized, the rebellious.

And one has Shakespeare, which is an advantage. There are beautiful and powerful lines in the play that Almereyda has kept. Imogen, in agony over her separation from Posthumus, laments: “O, that husband! / My supreme crown of grief!” Iachimo, perhaps laying the basis for his eventual change of heart, tells Imogen that “the Gods have made you unlike all others,” and after sneaking into her bedroom at night and snatching compromising images of her while she sleeps, exclaims to himself and about himself, “Though this a heavenly angel, hell is here.” When Imogen imagines that the decapitated Cloten is her beloved Posthumus, she cries: “O Posthumus! alas, / Where is thy head? where’s that? / … And left this [her own] head on.” And in the final moments, when a happy Posthumus lifts Imogen off her feet and holds her in mid-air, he tells her lovingly: “Hang there like a fruit, my soul, / Till the tree die!” And Cymbeline, finally: “Pardon’s the word to all.”

Almereyda has limited himself to relatively elementary ideas about the play’s content. He told an interviewer that the movie is “about a family and broken trust. It’s a kind of a blighted love story, and almost every man in the story has some imbalanced relationship with a woman. And that intrigued me. It seemed, in some ways, a very modern set of relationships.”

Nonetheless, as noted above, his imagery suggests something more critical about the wider, contemporary world, and more threatening, in the spirit of the play itself. Harold C. Goddard, in his well-known The Meaning of Shakespeare (1951), writes that while “Shakespeare was no Jacobin,” the play paints a picture of “The Power of the English throne wedded to Corruption, who is slowly poisoning it.”

Goddard, writing of the queen’s vicious son, observes: “Nor does Cloten stand alone. He is merely the dark consummate flower of a nobility and court society that is rotten to the core. The Queen is villainous, the King pusillanimous, the British lords cowardly and panicky in battle.” Shakespeare’s Cymbeline provided an intensity that the director had sufficient intellectual wherewithal and integrity to have absorbed and passed along to his audience.

Henry Jackson and his Society, racism, war, corruption, torture supporters


This military video from the USA is called Japanese Americans in WWII.

From the Independent series about US American activists:

Minoru Yasui

1942

In the Second World War, a notice was suddenly posted throughout Japanese neighbourhoods: “All persons of Japanese ancestry will be evacuated from the above designated area by 12 o’clock noon”.

There was nothing in the evacuation order or in any public law that allowed the United States government to keep Americans within any restricted area. But the War Relocation Authority, by pure executive fiat, detained us under their jurisdiction and sent us to camps. The military, without imposing martial law, was ordering the civilian to do something. In my opinion, that’s the way dictatorships are formed.

And if I, as an American citizen, stood still for this, I would be derogating the rights of all citizens. I had to stand up and say, “That’s wrong”. I refused to report for evacuation. Sure enough, within the week, I got a telephone call saying, “We’re coming to get you”. I can still see them. The lieutenant was in a saloon car. A jeep followed with four military policemen. I was thrown into the North Portland Livestock Pavilion, where Japanese-Americans had been put. In stalls where horses and cows were kept, people now lived. It was sweltering, but we had no way to escape it. They wouldn’t let us outside.

In September, they started moving us into desert camps. You were surrounded with barbed-wire fences, armed guards, searchlights, and machine-gun nests. We wondered how long we were going to be interned. What was going to happen? By then, we had heard rumours of forced labour camps in Germany. Were they, as [the journalist] Westbrook Pegler and others were suggesting, going to castrate the men and ship them back to Japan? These things were in the papers constantly: make them suffer. Make them hurt. And I kept on thinking, “What did I do?”

One of the most vocal advocates of this putting into concentration camps of people just because of their ancestry, was US politician Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson.

Before we go to Britain today, first some more United States political history.

In the twentieth century, there was the late United States senator and failed presidential candidate Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson. Mr Jackson was corrupt, Jackson’s nickname was “the gentleman from Boeing“. Boeing being a military contractor getting lots of taxpayers’ money for killing and torturing people. Jackson was also a major supporter of wars, like in Vietnam.

Jackson was a strong supporter of the racist internment of US citizens of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps because of their ethnicity during World War II.

The 21st century ‘Henry Jackson Society’ seems to have substituted Muslims for Japanese-Americans. This society includes hard-line politicians from the USA. And from Britain: right-wing Conservatives, like David Cameron’s now-sacked education secretary Michael Gove. And right-wing ‘new’ Labour Blairites. Like Denis MacShane, convicted for, and kicked out of the Labour party for, corruption. So, really similar to Henry Jackson. Also similar in being a warmonger, supporting war in Iraq, Afghanistan, wherever.

Unfortunately, Denis MacShane is not unique within Labour in Britain.

The recently elected leader of the party in Scotland, Jim Murphy, is a Tony Blair loyalist, supporting war in Iraq etc. etc. And more fishy details have emerged about Mr Murphy: his links to the Henry Jackson Society.

By Solomon Hughes in Britain:

Labour’s stand is unequivocal, but …

Friday 10th April 2015

The Henry Jackson Society is little-known outside Parliament but apparently is big in Westminster. SOLOMON HUGHES puts it under his microscope

The Labour Party responded quickly to last year’s US Senate intelligence committee report on CIA torture — it rushed out a statement by shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander saying there is “no justification for the use of torture.

“It is both illegal and morally wrong,” Alexander said. “This damning Senate report confirms that the use of extreme interrogation techniques by the CIA not only failed to secure actionable intelligence, but also damaged standing and reputation of the United States of America around the world.”

But nine top Labour MPs — including their Scottish leader Jim Murphy and shadow cabinet member Chris Bryant, are supporters of an obscure but powerful neoconservative think tank which has defended the CIA against allegations of torture for years, promoting speakers making the pro-CIA case inside the Houses of Parliament.

Murphy, Bryant and co sit on the advisory board of the Henry Jackson Society (HJS).

Douglas Murray, associate director of the HJS gave a flavour of their approach on BBC’s This Week soon after the release of the Senate report.

Murray attacked the report and defended the CIA. Murray argued the idea that “torture is torture, is plain wrong” because “there are degrees” and “America didn’t do the worst things.” Murray condemned the “ceaseless attacks on our intelligence services and the efforts to stop them doing the job that they need to do to keep us safe. We should accept that aspects of that job don’t seem very nice from the comfort of our sitting rooms.”

Murray’s attitude is consistent with the HJS. In 2012 it published an article about attempts to uncover CIA “black sites” in Poland — the torture chambers referred to in the recent Senate report.

HJS researcher Robin Simcox argued: “Europeans look down on America’s interrogation techniques, comfortable in its [sic] moral superiority. How easy it is to pass judgment once America had done the dirty work that no-one else had the stomach for.”

The HJS is little-known outside Parliament, but big in Westminster. It is a £1 million-a-year operation, although the society won’t say where its money comes from. It is a neocon-ish think tank [advocating] “The pursuit of a robust foreign policy” and a “strong military.” HJS is based in London, but named after a US senator best known for supporting the Vietnam war.

Labour MPs on the HJS advisory board include Hazel Blears, Margaret Beckett, Jim Murphy, John Spellar, Gisela Stuart, Ben Bradshaw, Chris Bryant and Khalid Mahmood.

There are also 28 Tory MPs on the board, mostly from the right of the party, along with Ukip’s new MP Mark Reckless.

None of the Labour MPs on the board appear to have objected to the HJS’s persistent attempts to defend the CIA from accusations of torture.

In October 2013 the HJS arranged a meeting with former CIA boss General Mike Hayden in the House of Lords where he justified torture. Hayden told the meeting that “there is a very long scale with varying shades of grey, as to what constitutes torture, and what doesn’t constitute torture.”

He argued waterboarding and sleep deprivation are “not torture” and made light of the “13 techniques” of “enhanced interrogation” used by the CIA saying: “Four of which I had happened (sic) to me in Catholic grade school.”

I asked Davis Lewin, HJS deputy director, about the way they backed the CIA on torture allegations. He said: “The society’s institutional line on torture is the same as that expressed by our associate director Douglas Murray on December 14 2014,” pointing to an article where Murray wrote “Actual torture … is so wrong that it should not be done whatever the possible cost-benefits.”

In the same article Murray wrote that there are “convincing reasons to believe” that the Senate report on CIA torture “is largely or partly untrue.” He also suggested that slapping and sleep deprivation are not torture.

Lewin also said that the HJS “opposes the use of waterboarding, however note that it is a legal grey area as US government policy has differed on its use, constituting it as both permissible and non-permissible.”

I emailed all the Labour MPs on the HJS advisory board to ask why they were backing the HJS, given its long-running stand with the CIA over torture allegations. Most did not reply. Ben Bradshaw MPs spokesperson suggested I contact Chris Bryant MP, who could explain both their involvement with HJS.

I contacted Bryant, but he didn’t reply. It almost seems like these normally talkative MPs are embarrassed by their involvement with this neocon think tank.

Nine of the 11 Labour MPs on the HJS board voted to join George Bush in the war with Iraq in March 2003 (Margaret Beckett, Hazel Blears, Ben Bradshaw, Chris Bryant, Meg Munn, Jim Murphy, John Spellar, Gisela Stuart and Derek Twigg), while Birmingham MP and HJS board member Khalid Mahmood abstained on that Iraq war vote.

So this does look like a remnant of the times when new Labour were in bed with the US Republican hawks over Iraq — although in the absence of any statement it is hard to say where they stand at all.

Only one Labour MP on the HJS board — Bridgend’s Dai Havard — responded. He is also the only one of them who joined 139 other rebel Labour MP’s to oppose the Iraq war in March 2003. Havard distanced himself from HJS thought, saying: “The Henry Jackson Society and its operatives do not speak for me and I do not speak for them.”

He added: “I disagree, personally and politically, with many aspects of the output of the HJS and many of the arguments and opinions of the individuals it invites to speak in parliamentary events.”

Havard told me that that many US government responses to terrorism were brutal and wrong and that HJS were useful because they “represent a body of thoughts and policy influences, particularly in the US, which we all need to understand and engage with if we are to change such responses.”

Jim Murphy’s promise that a Labour government would protect Scotland from future spending cuts was contradicted by three of his senior colleagues on Monday, leading to claims that he had been “hung out to dry” by his party’s Westminster leadership: here.