Shakespearean Heritage and the Preposterous 'Contemporary Jacobean' Film: Commodifying and Consuming the Duchess of Malfi in Mike Figgis' 'Hotel' (2001)
Johns Hopkins University Press
Mike Figgis’s Hotel (2001), which contains a film-within-the-film adaptation of John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, is representative of an emerging corpus of screen versions of Jacobean drama which aggressively pitch themselves against the conservative nostalgia characteristic of mainstream screen Shakespeares. Hotel is deliberate in its use of anachronism, narrative disjunction and irreverence towards its source text, troping the revival of Webster’s play as both cultural cannibalism and the production of an easily digestible ‘fast-food McMalfi.’ The contemporary Jacobean aesthetic it espouses is preposterous, in George Puttenham’s terms, in that it deliberately misplaces temporal and spatial relationships to articulate the transgressive female desire that challenges the structures of the film industry and early modern society alike. Tracing its descent from Derek Jarman’s queer The Tempest (1971) and Edward II (1991), and setting itself against the Shakespeare heritage industry as represented by its immediate predecessor Shakespeare in Love (1999), Figgis’s Hotel employs digital technology, improvisation and intertextual dialogue to challenge not only Shakespeare’s cultural hegemony, but also the domination of the heteronormative male gaze in conventional cinema. If Hotel is a film ‘about’ how to produce a fast-food McMalfi for a contemporary audience, Figgis’s use of the preposterous contemporary Jacobean aesthetic makes of The Duchess of Malfi ‘about’ the making of Hotel, ‘about’ man’s control of transgressive female sexuality in the medium of film.
Published article made available in accordance with SHERPA RoMEO guidelines. Copyright © 2009 Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in Shakespeare Quarterly Vol.60(3) pp 279-303, 2009. Reprinted with permission by The Johns Hopkins University Press. Images reproduced with permission of copyright holder Mike Figgis.
Vol. 60, Issue 3, pp. 278 - 303