The Winter of Our Disability : Understanding Disability in Film through Richard III
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This paper combines Shakespeare scholarship and film study. Given that Richard III still holds massive influence in our collective consciousness, we cannot simply ignore it, but also given our current relationship with film, we cannot ignore that either. Instead, what this paper aims to do is analyze three different film adaptations of Richard III covering a span of 61 years, one from 1955 (directed by and starring Laurence Olivier), one from 1995 (directed by Richard Loncraine and starring Ian McKellen), and one from 2016 (directed by Dominic Cooke and starring Benedict Cumberbatch). These analyses will focus not only on how the films portray Richard’s disability and how that affects the audience’s perception of disabled people on film, but also on the basic theoretical aspects of how generic conventions affect the ways that disability is projected on film in the first place. The first part of this paper focuses on the theoretical framework which supposes how and why the human body is portrayed and understood on film in a more general sense, then narrows in on how the disabled human body is understood in the same medium. The second part then focuses specifically on the three film adaptations and the ways in which they impart meaning and message to the audience through the various aspects of mise-en-scène: performance, setting, framing, etc. Finally, the conclusion summarizes the rest of the paper and provides some key points to take away as a final word on the subject while also putting forth some further scenarios that may prove fruitful for further and more detailed research on the subject of disability on film.
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