Looking For Richard Techniques

Looking for Richard Techniques #

How does Pacino make Richard III accessible to modern American audiences?

By using film #

Film becomes a familiar medium to lift him off the page. The Camera can come in much closer to the characters. The silver screen is a more effective medium to depict the craft of performance and highlight the power of Shakespeare’s language.

Language: #

The differences between today’s language and Shakespeare’s: People say,

“Hey you, go over there, get that thing, and bring it back to me”.

Shakespeare would say,

“Be Mercury, set feathers to thy heels, and fly like thought from them to me again.

Themes: #

Making the themes relevant – so we can relate to them. Pacino gives us multifarious or variant views of Richard and helps us to see him not as a stereotype but rather as manipulative monster with very human qualities including frailty. Pacino raises the question over who is in a better position to interpret the play; academics, actors or the audience?

The main themes are:

  • Power, how it is manipulated and maintained through ruthlessness in the backroom dealings of the York family.

  • Women – the timeless struggle of sexual politics and how the former wailing queens forge their bonds of sympathy.

Conscience can eventually get us all.

Casting: #

Using well known American actors (with their sense of inferiority and American accents), the audience can relate to.

Winona Ryder – as Lady Anne. – young and attractive – at that time.

Alec Baldwin … Himself / Duke of Clarence

Al Pacino … Himself / Richard III - as creator, director and star

Kevin Spacey … Himself / Earl of Buckingham

Choice of costuming- Elizabethan
sound craft modern sound effects and music
camera angles, Prolific use of close-ups, angle shots for effect


People in the streets,

- I saw Hamlet recently.

How did you feel about it?

Did you see it live? It what?

It sucked.

- It what?

It sucked. I saw it live.

- It sucked?


Anything in Shakespeare that made you think it’s not close to you.- …or connected to you in any way?

- Yeah, it’s boring.

*(Kevin Kline)

You know Shakespeare?

William Shakespeare?

We’re peddling him on the streets.

I remember our English teacher sent us to see…a local college production of King Lear.

I went with my girlfriend… …and after about minutes of these people: They were doing this kind of Shakespearean acting.

I just tuned right out. We made out in the back row and left at intermissión.

academics, Often presenting lofty judgments in arcane inaccessible language

actors,..British: Kenneth Branagh, Vanessa Redgrave, John Gielgud, Kevin Kline, ….

His own actors switch between fully costumed to arguing around a table. This stream of conscious technique of fluid cuts between discussing, practising and then acting in costume is a highly effective technique used by Pacino to juxtapose a tradition with a modern setting. Also, seeing behind the scenes, when actors are arguing and discussing and stumbling through the text just like a anybody else etc. allows the audience to feel more on the same level as the actors and not as if they are simply watching that can do things they can’t. this in turn makes it a hell of a lot more accessible to the intended audience.

voice over: an alienating device - gives us an overall view.

dialogue: Looking for Richard concentrates on performing select scenes from the play. Although perhaps only a third of the full text is used, what is used is authentic Shakespearean language contrasted with the language used by the actors behind the scenes.

Pacino attempts to break down centuries of barriers surrounding one of Shakespeare’s most complicated and intimidating works.

“You don’t need to understand every single word that’s said, as long as you get the gist of what’s going on. Just trust it and you’ll get it,”

Much is made of Language and meaning such as Vanessa Redgrave’s comment that

In England you have had centuries when words are totally divorced from truth.

Settings: Looking for Richard keeps the original historical context intact using American scenes and Medieval Abbeys and European scenes to create a realistic atmosphere.

Al Pacino uses the fact the Richard III is a play full of irony, so the film is also full of irony. “Irony is just hypocrisy with style” (Barbara Everett)

Definitions of irony: wishing people good speed, but actually wishing them to their death. (Macbeth to Banquo)

Pacino is actually a little obsessed with Richard and is almost a bit conceited when it comes to playing his part. You see that Queen Elizabeth’s and Richmond’s (especially in the final scene, what a crappy battle!) power is downplayed heavily. Pacino could be a bit full of himself and is not making the film as accessible as it could be.

While the original play was written about acting and to showcase an Elizabethan actor’s talent, the film is about actors and acting. you can use this as a connection, but explore it more to gain evidence, concepts,