As the introduction to Part II has already pointed out, there are many reasons why a new wave of undead films has come to populate cinemas since the 1990s. By the end of the second decade of the new millennium, the latest boom of zombie and vampire films has even reached the stage when self-ironic and parodic treatments are almost more common than serious and straightforward ones which use the undead as metaphors for direct social criticism, and this parodic intention is also characteristic of the Shakespeare-inspired works. The cross-pollination between
The volume offers a new method of interpreting screen adaptations of Shakespearean drama, focusing on the significance of cinematic genres in the analysis of films adapted from literary sources. The book’s central argument is rooted in the recognition that film genres may provide the most important context informing a film’s production, critical and popular reception. The novelty of the volume is in its use of a genre-based interpretation as an organising principle for a systematic interpretation of Shakespeare film adaptations. The book also highlights Shakespearean elements in several lesser-known films, hoping to generate new critical attention towards them. The volume is organised into six chapters, discussing films that form broad generic groups. Part I comprises three genres from the classical Hollywood era (western, melodrama and gangster noir), while Part II deals with three contemporary blockbuster genres (teen film, undead horror and the biopic). The analyses underline elements that the films have inherited from Shakespeare, while emphasising how the adapting genre leaves a more important mark on the final product than the textual source. The volume’s interdisciplinary approach means that its findings are rooted in both Shakespeare and media studies, underlining the crucial role genres play in the production and reception of literature as well as in contemporary popular visual culture.
The introduction to Part II of this volume has already established that, like the teenpic or the undead horror film, the biopic is not an entirely new phenomenon in cinema history, and yet at the end of the millennium it has made a spectacular return to public awareness. Shakespeare biopics provide an eminent example: while a few films with William Shakespeare as a character had already been made in the first half of the twentieth century, it is only since the 1990s that any biopic proper can be associated with his name. Earlier films which include images of
After the discussion of classical Hollywood genres and their appropriation of Shakespearean narratives, Part II of the volume investigates three genres that represent more recent colours on the cinematic palette. While the three genres included in these chapters – teen films, undead horror and biopics – are not regarded as classics of commercial cinema, it is undeniable that they also had antecedents either in the pre- or post-war decades of filmmaking. They have typically (re)gained popularity and thus significance in and around the 1990s, the great decade of
decades ago. This altered consciousness of what constitutes Shakespeare therefore needs examination. Before we dismiss contemporary popular culture’s knowledge of Shakespeare as minimal or even non-existent, it may be worthwhile to ponder on the implications of the altered cultural context in which short quotations, randomly poached snatches of text, fake quotations authenticated with an image and a name find a natural place. 17 This fragmented textual presence is one of the common features of the three genres examined in Part II of the volume, the teen film, undead
group, which systematically reflect on their own era of creation. One of these features is a desire to reinterpret the inherited stories through an in-depth psychological identification with characters and conflicts. This is what we can observe in the way Shakespeare is approached by high school students, who tend to apply the plays’ words directly to their own everyday trials and tribulations. This need for identification also explains the rise of the humanised undead, who are no longer the monstrous Others of civilisation, but are represented as victims of an