Orlando is forced to work like a servant for his brother Oliver, so he goes to win his fortune in a wrestling contest, where he meets a lady of the court, Rosalind. Rosalind (daughter of the deposed duke) is companion to Celia, niece of the deposed Duke, and when the current duke banishes Rosalind from the kingdom, she, Celia, the court jester (and incidentally Orlando) all end up in the forest or Arden, where the deposed Duke holds court. Romantic mix-ups, cross-dressing, love poems nailed to trees, and a lion await them all.
-Helen Mirren heads a splendid cast of actors in this production. Not only is the cinematography lovely, but the forest scenes accurately depict both the sense of freedom and the sense of dislocation and strangeness that a retreat to the Forest of Arden represents for the court characters. Rosalind serves as a splendid counterpoint to Orlando in the forest, training him to understand the needs of women and constantly catching him off-guard with her banter. Jacques is suitably pompous and condescending, admirably outwitted by Rosalind when he has the audacity to attempt to match wits with her. Even the minor parts, such as those of Phebe and Audrey, are acted with skill.
-This is one of the best comedies by Shakespeare because it contains all the tragic drama at the beginning that is necessary to make the end endlessly happy. A false Duke, title-less brother of a real Duke, usurps in some way the fief and title of the real Duke, and the false Duke is thus a fake. But he banishes his rival not to be in anyway challenged in his usurpation. Then from the city, the castle, the seat of this Dukedom we move to the refuge of the banned in some Forest of Arden. They live there like more or less shepherds, with shepherds, waiting for better days. Shakespeare creates a character, Jaques, who is needed to bring to that refuge some sad wit that both reflects the situation and reflects on the situation. The second element of a good comedy by Shakespeare is the happy ending. And in this comedy Shakespeare pushes the happy ending to perfection. Four weddings presided by Juno and her envoy Hymen, four women and four men married on the same day at the same time in the same place. Nothing can be more sacred than that bringing together of the passion of Christ and his resurrection. A wedding is in a way the end and death of a life of superficial freedom to give way to a resurrection of deep emotional realization till death them parts. And Shakespeare doubles up this happy occasion with the conversion, Christian conversion mind you, of the fake Duke to the reclusion of the monk he thus becomes when on his way to a vengeance or murder he will never fulfill. And yet Jaques will then retire to the cave of the exiles because he does not have the heart to go back to civil life, waiting as he is for the seventh age of man, the one just before the lethal liberation. But Shakespeare is also a born comedian and he has to set at the very center of his fable an element that makes any moment full of double entendre and innuendo. The daughter of the banished Duke, Rosalind, who is banished in her turn, decides to live her banishment as a boy. The disguise is today obvious. It was absolutely hilarious in Shakespeare's time since then women were played by male teenagers. The double-entendre became in those days ambiguously clear. And Orlando, who is in love with Rosalind, is more or less defied by Ganymede, who is no one else but Rosalind in disguise, to practice his courting of Rosalind on him Ganymede, who is in fact Rosalind. This situation becomes a grand comedy of transvestite jest and fun. On the surface a boy courts a woman in the person of a boy who lends his person for that game. In the 16th century under the surface a boy courts a boy who is supposed to be a girl who plays the part of a boy lending himself to the game of being the girl he is supposed to be and who the other boy loves. Slightly complex, isn't it? In modern times the girl is disguised as a boy who lends her/his disguised boyhood to virtually be the girl he/she really is. Every word then becomes ambiguous in all possible ways and funny at the same time, including in the field of sexual love, especially when a shepherdess falls in love with Ganymede who is in fact Rosalind, a boy actor in the old days, a girl nowadays. The best part of the play is that it could have become a farce and Shakespeare very skillfully avoids the Commedia dell arte, and leads the comedy to some kind of moral tale about love, power, ambition, property and life. This production is enhanced by young actors and actresses and by an excellent music.
William Shakespeare (play)
Helen Mirren ... Rosalind
Brian Stirner Brian Stirner ... Orlando
Richard Pasco Richard Pasco ... Jaques
Angharad Rees Angharad Rees ... Celia
James Bolam James Bolam ... Touchstone
Clive Francis Clive Francis ... Oliver
Richard Easton Richard Easton ... Duke Frederick
Tony Church Tony Church ... Duke Senior
John Quentin John Quentin ... Le Beau
Maynard Williams Maynard Williams ... Silvius
Victoria Plucknett Victoria Plucknett ... Phebe
Marilyn Le Conte Marilyn Le Conte ... Audrey
Tom McDonnell Tom McDonnell ... Amiens
David Lloyd Meredith David Lloyd Meredith ... Corin
Arthur Hewlett Arthur Hewlett ... Adam
Release Date:17 December 1978 (UK)
Also Known As:The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: As You Like It
Filming Locations:Glamis Castle, Glamis, Angus, Scotland, UK
Runtime:USA: 151 min