Film Review: MUSE OF FIRE

Muse of Fire

MUSE OF FIRE is an original and inspiring documentary that will change the way you think of Shakespeare

From the RSC’s productions of Henry V and Othello to Kenneth Branagh’s The Winter’s Tale and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet, I’ve certainly enjoyed my fair share of the Bard this year. In the past 12 months, I have been lucky enough to review six Shakespeare theatre productions. To me, Shakespeare is a hero, but to others he is a villain. Even though Shakespeare is considered to be the best in British literature, many struggle with his works.

Actors Dan Poole and Giles Terera loathed Shakespeare at school. The childhood friends admit that they often struggled to understand the Bard and even found him frightening. Then one day, they saw Baz Lurhman’s film ROMEO AND JULIET starring Leonard DiCaprio and Claire Danes and everything changed. They decided to become actors, made their way to London and fell in love with the Bard in the process.

In an attempt to uncover the secret of Shakespeare and to find out why people are so scared of the Bard, Dan and Giles embarked on a four-year journey to make MUSE OF FIRE, a unique feature documentary about the greatest writer of them all.

Muse of Fire DVD CoverMUSE OF FIRE is an 83-minute feature film that aims to aim to dispel the myths, illuminate his work and show the world that Shakespeare can be incredibly fun. The film documents Dan and Giles’ 25,000 mile journey as they travel the world to discover everything they can about Shakespeare. Their trip takes them from Denmark with Jude Law to Hollywood with Baz Lurhrman, via a prison in Berlin and Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

What makes MUSE OF FIRE so special is that it is very much as personal project. Dan and Giles co-wrote, filmed and funded the feature and as a result, the documentary plays more like a home video than a feature film. MUSE OF FIRE is a raw and original piece that is heartfelt and inspiring and will change the way you think of Shakespeare.

Along the way, the boys interview some of the greatest Shakespearean actors of all time including Ian McKellen, James Earl Jones, Judi Dench and Tom Hiddleston. The actors speak openly about their early encounters with the most famous storyteller in history with Rory Kinnear and Ewan McGregor openly admitting that they don’t fully understand Shakespeare’s work. The interview with Judi Dench is particularly good, with the actress reading extracts from Shakespeare’s text with such love, passion and enthusiasm that you can’t help but be inspired.

Accompanying the documentary feature is DVD extra SHAKESPEARE IN PRACTICE featuring actors and practitioners at London’s National Theatre Studio. The hour-long feature is certainly worth a watch if you’re an aspiring actor or theatre student as there are extracts from Shakespeare’s work including Sonnets, As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, all of which are accompanied by fascinating commentary by Ian McKellen, Bonnie Greer, Fiona Shaw, Peter Gill, Brian Cox, Derek Jacobi, Henry Goodman and John Barton. You also get to see the actors rehearsing key scenes from the plays.

While there is plenty to love about MUSE OF FIRE, it is a very much a niche film. Whilst the film aims to appeal to all type of fans, from loyal Shakespearians to complete newbies, you really need to be interested in Shakespeare to fully enjoy it.

That said, MUSE OF FIRE is an impressive debut feature from Dan Poole and Giles Terera and well worth a watch if you an aspiring actor, director, theatre-goer or student. An interesting feature on the most famous storyteller in history.

4 out of 5 stars

Muse Of Fire [DVD] [NTSC] is available as a 2-disc DVD set including feature documentary and extras.