Friday, January 13, 2012

All's Well that Ends Well

Forgive me a second post on Shakespeare in Love. I watched the bonus materials the other day, and when I saw the deleted scene that would have been the ending of the movie, I knew I had to do a post about why the director made exactly the right choice by deleting that scene and using the one that actually ended up in the film.

First, a brief synopsis of each scene.

Deleted Ending: We see Will alone in the theatre, and Viola comes in to bring him the money he won in the bet with Lord Wessex. From across the room, she says, "The Queen bids me say goodbye," and tells him the queen also wants his next play to be a comedy, to which he replies, "I'm done with comedy." She then crosses the room and they have their brief, tearful goodbye kiss. She leaves and he starts after her, but Burbage stops him with a meaningful look. Burbage then looks at the money bag and says, "A hired player no longer. Welcome to the Chamberlain's Men" (which had been Shakespeare's goal at the beginning of the movie). Will looks after Viola, but then smiles ruefully at Burbage (as a sign he's accepted his fate, I suppose). The next scene shows the two of them walking down the street with Burbage telling Will the Queen wants a comedy for Twelfth Night, and then the scene changes to Will beginning the script for Twelfth Night, leading into the final scene in which Viola is walking across a beach (which is also in the final version of the movie in slightly shortened form).

Final Version of the Ending: The first thing I noticed is that the camera shots are closer and the lighting is more intimate, which immediately sets a different mood. Viola brings the money to the backstage area, and Will says, "My Lady Wessex," both as a greeting and a question. She acknowledges it without a word, then gives him the money and says, "A hired player no longer." They reflect a little on what happened between them, she encourages him to keep writing, and she tells him the Queen wants a comedy.  He replies, "A comedy? What would my hero be? The saddest wretch in all the kingdom, sick with love?" She says, "It's a beginning," and then together they begin to lay the foundation for a plot. She uses Henslowe's running gag from the movie ("It's a mystery...") and then they have their tearful goodbye. She pulls away and says, "Write me well." The scene then picks up the same basic ending as the deleted scene, to have Viola on the beach.

As a viewer of the movie, I know the second scene was infinitely more satisfying as a way to end the story. As a writer, I can look at the two scenes and see why. The version that made it into the movie allowed for the emotional threads to all be pulled together; the deleted scene, on the other hand, was a bit detached. Hey, you should find yourself tearing up at the end of the relationship between these two characters we've come to know and love. Introducing Burbage into the final scene takes us away from that.

I also thought the scene that was kept contributed to the development of these characters. What, at the end of the movie??? You wouldn't think there's anything else we need to know about them, especially since their story is over. But the scene added even more strength of character to Viola. She's now stuck with this pompous jerk of a husband, stuck going to an uncivilized country half a world away, and yet in the scene, she's not bitter or  despairing. Will actually seems more bitter and torn up about it. Viola reassures him, "all ends well," even though she doesn't know how. And she understands (and helps him understand) that even though their relationship is now ended physically, through the power of his writing, they can always be who they were, together forever.

Wow. The first scene brings the plot to a close; the one they kept brings a depth that really helps elevate this movie above being just another movie with a love affair and lots of kissing. Even at the end the characters are growing. The scene gives the story (which is pretty sad, basically) that element of hope that I believe is so important.

(And I love the fact that even in that scene, when he is an actor and a lover first, we can still see the inkstains on Shakespeare's fingers. He is always a writer.)

I couldn't find the entire scene as one piece, but here is the last part.


Deborah Swift said...

Oh, this took me back! What a great well-thought out post. I can't imagine it with another ending, so it was interesting to try. Thanks for including the clip - such a great film.

Augustina Peach said...

I was late in discovering this film; I watched it for the first time two weeks ago, but I've watched some piece of it almost every day since!

I love it as a love story, but it also speaks to me deeply as a writer. This morning I was watching the end (again) and I was struck by how Viola showing up to do the role of Juliet was an act of love, not because she could be with Will one last time, but because she was giving his play a chance to be a success. That's true love to a writer!

Thanks for your comment!

Ann Turnbull said...

This is such an interesting post. Shakespeare in Love is one of my (and my husband's) two favourite films - the other being Witness. Both are films we find we can watch again and again and always find something new in them. And I love that line "It's a mystery." It truly is.

Augustina Peach said...

Oh, Witness! It's been far too long since I've seen that one, and I love it. I need to track it down and watch it again.