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Antony and Cleopatra Movie Review

heston charlton hildegard neil

1973 – Charlton Heston –

If Henry V is Shakespeare's attempt at a stage epic (assisted greatly by his poetry that addresses and rouses the audience's imagination), Antony and Cleopatra may well be his mock epic. The play certainly enjoys deflating the noble image of Marc Antony, who is torn between the Roman ideal of duty and the love-lust he feels for the pleasure-loving Cleopatra. His tragedy becomes his inability to reconcile these two sides of his divided self. The first shot of Charlton Heston in this film—that he also adapted and directed—captures this conflict well (both Lawrence Olivier and Orson Welles were sought for the lead). Antony is pictured lounging and napping while Cleopatra (Hildegard Neil) applies some lip-liner to his mouth. Later, when Enobarbus (Eric Porter) describes Cleopatra on her barge (“Age cannot whither her nor custom stale her infinite variety”), Heston inserts a few cutaways to Antony, who seems unable to keep his mind on Octavia (Carmen Sevilla), his betrothed. Heston is much better than Hildegard Neil as Cleopatra. The chief drawback is her inability to suggest the captivating, mercurial quality of the queen or even to convey a personality that would make plausible Antony's obsession with her.

The battle scenes at sea disappoint as well. The usual approach in the film superimposes the face of one of the participants over a shot of a ship or two while martial music thunders on the soundtrack, as if the filmmakers are trying to disguise a budget that won't support many action sequences. Most of the other scenes overuse rather tight closeups, which makes the compositions on a non-letterboxed version seem careless and unbalanced. One of the best effects comes in the quiet moment when Eros (Garrick Hagon), Antony's aptly named slave, rows his master at night across a lake, and Antony compares himself to a cloud that the wind continually reshapes. The flicker of the torchlight on Antony's meditative face calls attention to his tragic insight about the variability of human nature and his own inability to be the sort of man he feels he ought to be.

Cast: Charlton Heston (Marc Antony), Hildegard Neil (Cleopatra), Eric Porter (Enobarbus), John Castle (Octavius), Fernando Rey (Lepidus), Carmen Sevilla (Octavia), Freddie Jones (Pompey), Monica Peterson (Iras), Aldo Sambrell (Ventidius), John Hallam (Thidias), Jane Lapotaire (Charmian), Fernando Bilbao (Menecrates), Luis Barboo (Varius), Warren Clarke (Scarus), Roger Delgado (Soothsayer), Garrick Hagon (Eros) Screenwriter: Charlton Heston (from Shakespeare) Cinematographer: Rafael Pacheco Composer: John Scott Producer: Peter Snell for Izaro and Folio Films; released by Transac and the Rank Organization MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 150 minutes Format: VHS.

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