Considering the dearth of modern films of the play, it is perhaps surprising that there might be as many as four silent film versions: by Edison (1909); the Thanhouser film company (1910, 12 minutes, 35 seconds, reissued on DVD); the German Das Wintermärchen, by Belle Alliance (1913–14), about which almost nothing is known, and which may therefore bear no more resemblance to Shakespeare’s play than the title; and Tragedia alla Corte di Sicilia by the Italian Milano company, distributed in England as The Lost Princess (1913, 34 minutes). The Milano version was very well received at the time, and is credited as being the most successful film adaptation of Shakespeare prior to World War I. The Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly, 15 March 1914, reported that it ‘is splendidly acted, magnificently staged, and photographically beautiful’ and although taste in acting style has changed, the photography still appeals. The story is carried by 44 subtitles, but in a silent movie, verbal jokes are impossible and the character of Autolycus is understandably cut entirely. The death of Antigonus is accomplished by having him set upon by robbers rather than a bear, and thrown into a volcano. This not entirely successful attempt at spectacle was shot on red film stock, with other night-time sequences shot on green stock. Book-ended by scenes of Shakespeare reading his play to a couple of friends, the film adds scenes to the story of Hermione, who is threatened with madness by the loss of her baby. It also attempts to rationalise her sixteen year disappearance by showing Paulina purchasing and administering a ‘potion to save the life and reason of her mistress’, as the subtitle explains, before, like Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, she is buried in a tomb.
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