(director/writer/cinematographer: John Farrell; screenwriter: from the play by William Shakespeare; cinematographer: Don Money; editor: George Mauro; music: Andrew M. Frazier/Liz A. Ficalora; cast: Matte Osian (Richard), Kadina Delejalde (Isabel), Ellen Zachos (Duke of Aumerle), Tom Turbiville (Mowbray), Barry Smith (Bolingbroke), Robert F. McCafferty (Northumberland), Daniel Maher (Bushy), David W. Frank (York), Neil Tadkin (Ross); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joseph Erickson; Sub Rosa Studios; 2001)

“It’s a powerful Shakespeare play that was well presented.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

John Farrell imaginatively directs William Shakespeare’s Richard the Second, an under-appreciated treasure that was never put to the big screen before until this digital video. It is shot on a shoestring budget and uses as its location shots the wooded area around Boston’s harbor. It also uniquely has the ensemble cast brazenly in modern dress (wearing battle fatigues and armed with machine guns), which doesn’t do anything for me but, nevertheless, doesn’t ruin the film (at least, the original text was unblemished).

It’s a tale of a young, reckless and indecisive king, Richard 11 (Matte Osian), who loses his crown and his life. A banished nobleman, Bolingbroke (Barry Smith), whose property the king seizes, returns to usurp the throne of England and become Henry IV. The battles between the two forces is fought in a guerrilla warfare style.

Matte Osian is the proud ruler who when lying curled up in a fetal position in a darkened dungeon after his surrender, realizes his mistakes in making so many powerful enemies and how he let down his subjects by misrule. The handsome Osian’s tantalizing performance of arrogance, pain and conceit is well realized. Though the ensemble cast gives more of a shaky performance than its lead, their acting still resonates with the bard’s intended turmoil and fury.

It’s a powerful Shakespeare play that was well presented (despite a poor quality of video and doubts on my part if the contemporary updates were needed). In any case, it left a modern audience with meaningful lessons to consider, especially during these days of President Bush the Second’s questionable Iraqi War and occupation. A question that might be raised, is if there’s a Bolingbroke hidden under Senator Kerry’s fair skin to bring down an arrogant rival!

Richard the Second Poster