The Tempest (1908)
This short attempt to bring the Bard to the screen is rather more ambitious than the previous decade’s “King John.” It not only attempts to tell the complete story of one of Shakespeare’s most fantasy-filled stories in only twelve minutes, it even attempts to backfill the story for the audience by going back to Prospero’s arrival on his island, the taming of Caliban and the discovery of Ariel. Each scene is told in a single intertitle followed by a brief period of action, ranging from a few seconds to perhaps two minutes. Magical effects are managed, as per the works of Georges Méliès, by in-camera trickery. This may be the most Méliès-like version of Shakespeare I’ve seen, although there is a seriousness of tone and slowness of pace in comparison to his better-known works. It seems to have been intended for an audience that was familiar with the story; I find it hard to believe that people would follow the subplots of Antonio and Caliban based on what we see here (unless some of it is missing), but it does have a child-like quality that suggests that perhaps it was intended as a way for parents to bring their children to see Shakespeare in shortened version, before submitting them to an entire performance.
Director: Percy Stow
Run Time: 12 Min
You can watch it for free: here.