Interrogating escapism: rethinking Kenneth Branagh’s Love’s Labour’s Lost

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In a departure from the widespread critical readings of Kenneth Branagh's cinematic adaptation of Love's Labour's Lost (2000) as a failed attempt to recreate the 1930s Hollywood film musical, this article takes a hermeneutic, rather than evaluative, approach in centralising the fragmented elements of pastiche which destabilise the film's readability as a unified text. Engaging with the manifold criticisms levelled against Branagh's fourth and arguably most radical Shakespearean adaptation, the argument emphasises the film's discontinuities and the often-questioned performance skills of its actors, positing these as strengths which respond directly to the metatheatricality and pastiche of Shakespeare's texts. Through a rejection of monologic readings of the film, the article instead places value on its apparent disjunctions, which create an interrogative text and invite the viewer to engage with the concept of escapism: a concept often obstructed by Branagh's knowing subversions of genre. By placing a play about a failed attempt at escapism in conversation with the Depression-era Hollywood film musical, one of the most escapist of film genres, Branagh's film, the article argues, opens itself up to interpretations of the film itself, Shakespeare's play, the musical genre, and spectator relationships to escapism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-483
Number of pages31
JournalShakespeare bulletin
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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