‘Never send a boy to do a man’s job especially if he’s a girl.’
Trevor Nunn’s 1996 film of Shakespeare’s classic comedy Twelfth Night is set somewhat ambiguously between the Elizabethan era and late Victorian England. The vagueness of setting seems appropriate, as this is a comedy about sexual confusion.
Twins Viola and Sebastian have been shipwrecked on different parts of the Illyrian coast. Each fears that the other is dead. In order to survive more easily in a ‘man’s world’ Viola (Imogen Stubbs) cuts her hair, glues on a fake moustache and dresses as a man. She poses as Cesario and enters the service of Orsino, a lovelorn Duke. He is obsessed with the beautiful but haughty Olivia (Helena Bonham Carter) and uses Viola/Cesario as his go-between. So impressive is Viola as a man that Olivia falls in love with ‘him’. Confusion intensifies when Viola’s twin Sebastian (Stephen Mackintosh) also arrives on the scene.
Handsomely shot and full of intriguing ideas, the film is breathtaking in its choreography and humour. The play is on the list of comparative texts for Leaving Certificate English.
UK/USA 1996. 133mins Drama Director: Trevor Nunn