The Raindance Film Festival in London is all about independent films and they don’t come much more independent than Muse of Fire. Devotees will recognise the title from the prologue of Henry V, and this is an amusing look at why many people are scared of Shakespeare. It is written, produced, scored, directed and pretty much everything-ed by the two presenters Giles Terera and Dan Poole, who have managed to get access to many actors and directors including A-listers like Ewan McGregor and Jude Law.
Giles and Dan both love Shakespeare. They went to drama school together and were inspired to become actors by Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. They have both performed at the National Theatre as well as many other venues. They recognise though that not that everyone shares their love of Shakespeare and have set out to discover why this is. Why do some people find watching the plays amazing and uplifting yet others are ‘bored to tears’?
Their journey takes them around Europe and America as they interview famous thespians and members of the public. Do you know anything about Shakespeare? Heck no, we’re Americans. But this isn’t all talking heads and tripod shots. The two men invite the camera into their banter-filled relationship, which makes for an entertaining time between interviews as they try and fix their ageing car, drive through customs without giving in to the urge to say they’ve got a gun or try and pronounce the Danish version of Elsinore. Much of the action is self-filmed, small Go PRO cameras are used, everything aiming towards a vérité aesthetic with extra wobble. They watch Jude Law perform Hamlet in Denmark and cross America, where they talk to the Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom and the director of the film that set them on their path, Baz Luhrmann.
Along with quadratic equations and rugby, Shakespeare is forced on British children at school. This is the main problem – the plays are meant to be seen on a stage, but most people’s introduction is reading a dry text full of words that are incomprehensible. Seen on stage the language comes to life and the issue of this is another language is all but gone. Shakespeare is a series of stories about emotions, love, envy, things that everyone feels still today.
Self-funded and shot over four years, Muse of Fire only exists because of the enthusiasm of the filmmakers for the subject. Add to that a continual stream of knowledgeable commentators and you have an entertaining and likeable film that is as much about the search as any answers. The name Muse of Fire though is quite an in name – you have to know some Shakespeare to know what it is about. This won’t help the film reach the wider audience they are aiming for and it may suffer in the same way as the plays they would like to see popularised. Nevertheless it is a fun examination of what Shakespeare means today.
Muse of Fire is showing again on Friday 27th September at 6.15, click here to get tickets.