Not Shakespeare

The Revenger’s Tragedy (1995)
dir. Alex Cox

                  I think the first line of this title pretty much says it all. Alex Cox’s rendition of Thomas Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy is not only hysterical, but it gives life to a play in a very unexpected way. Christopher Eccleston and Eddie Izzard star in the film as Vindici and Lussurioso respectively. Eccleston’s insanity combined with Izzard’s insanity creates a hilariously comical tragedy all about secret plots and revenge. The film is set in a post-apocalyptic Liverpool, sometime in the future.  Izzard is dressed in his normal transvestite garb as are his four brothers. Everyone speaks in a mix of Jacobean language and modern language. Essentially, it can be, and is, very confusing in certain aspects. The language they use and the way that the dress and act really throws off the viewer, but it is all done in the name of hilarity. Everything is so outrageous that you can’t help but to laugh.

There were obviously a few differences between the play and the film. For instance, they decided to name Vindici’s brother Carlo instead of Hippolito like it is in the play. Instead Hippolito is some minor character, a friend of Castiza’s. Vindici’s creation, Piato, never comes to fruition in the film; Vindici just acts as himself throughout the film. Also, characters in the film trade lines with characters that originally said them in the play.

The most interesting thing is that the film seems to suggest that had Lussurioso not tried to get with Castiza, then Vinidici might have let him live. They essentially hang out together throughout a majority of the film and they seem like they could be friends. Vindici even breaks him out of prison, saving his life. However, near the end of the film, Vindici kills Lussurioso in a very Monty Python-esque style. When the lights go off at the dance, Vindici screams “Pistols! Treason! Guards! Help! My lord, the Duke, is murdered!” To which Lussurioso replies in a puzzled manor, “No, I’m not.” At that moment Vindici stabs and kills him. This was very reminiscent of the famous “Bring out your dead” scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Essentially, this is a hysterical and bizarre film. It is a very interesting take on Middleton’s play, making changes that make the film unique, all the while keeping the main points of the play. Eccleston and Izzard are great and make the film truly enjoyable.  I would recommend seeing it in full, especially after having read the play. The bazar characters and the language that they use might be off putting at first but you quickly learn to love it. The best is when they speak in Jacobean for a long period of time and then suddenly someone curses in modern language, or has an aside in which they use modern language. It goes from hard to understanding their meaning to knowing exactly what they mean (Spurio flipping Lussurioso off). (V. Russo, October 2o13)



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