Julie Taymor’s adapatation to film of Shakespeare’s last and greatest play, THE TEMPEST, captures all the magic and poetry of the text and achieves something remarkable. In film, the director captures and controls the attention and focus of the viewer through editing and cutting. By employing extreme close ups and tight shots of one and two actors, Tamor creates an intimate, personal story about relationships. The themes of forgiveness, power, aging and acceptance within the text are maintained here. But, what is most striking is how human and real the relationships are within the story.
In the courtroom, the attorney is writer, actor, producer and director. It is the lawyer’s responsibility to direct the focus and attention of the listener. First to find the STORY, the simple, compelling narrative that makes us care and then to guide our attention to details and most importantly to relationships. That is what we follow — relationships.
Watch this film and you will see and feel how the grandeur of Shakespeare comes alive and is made real through the intimate, personal relationships. The film making does this. The choices of the director and editor. These are lessons that all good storytellers –attorneys among them—must learn.
Alan: Find the STORY, the simple, compelling narrative that makes us care and then to guide our attention to details and most importantly to relationships. That is what we follow — relationships.
Helen Mirren’s performance as Prospera (Prospero in the traditional THE TEMPEST) is a great lesson for all trial attorneys who have “set pieces” in their openings and closings. By a “set piece” I mean anywhere from a sentence (“Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury”) to a paragraph to a whole section that the attorney will use again and again from one case to the next. Actually, some attorneys confess to me that they feel best in any opening (for example) when they get to that “familiar” part.
My experience of their delivery of this part is that it often lacks spontaneity. The attorney feels great, but the jurors are bored as there is no spark in the delivery. This is not dissimilar to an actor who does the same play eight times a week for a year. Or an actor who, like Mirren, approaches a role that has been done for – oh, let’s say 500 years by hundreds of actors. I have seen literally dozens of Prosperos in my time.
The first major scene of the play, between Prospero and his daughter Miranda, is often boring. It is filled with what seems like an ungodly amount of exposition. It is often delivered by an actor who plays the role as though Prospero not only knows the information he is talking about (his great betrayal by his brother) but is basically “over it”. Now – watch Mirren play Prospera. She discovers the words as she speaks them. She has never said any of them out loud – she has barely thought about them over the years. Nothing is old hat to her. Nothing is “comfortable”. The effect is absolutely amazing.
When I sat in that darkened theater and watched this movie, I would swear to you I had never seen THE TEMPEST before. That I had never experienced that Prospero-Miranda scene. Never seen it? Of course, not only have I seen the show in dozens of productions, I played Miranda when I was an ingénue. But I swear to you I was as surprised as Prospera and Miranda were to learn what had lived in the heart of Prospera for years.
Go and enjoy this amazing performance. And as you watch this great scene, watch how brilliantly Helen Mirren plays it. Then, say, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury” as if it has never been said before. Now do it again. And again. And again. And the next time you say it in court, instead of resting on what feels good, dare to make it brand new.
Katherine: Breathe fresh life into the parts of your openings and closings that you “always” say by making them sound as if they are being said for the first time.
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