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The villainous character of Richard III creates an intimate relationship with his audience by giving them a voyeuristic window into his most private moments. This sense of voyeurism is important to recognize when analyzing Richard’s character due to his lustful relationship with power and romanticization of violence. Richard Loncraine’s film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play heightens this sense of closeness with Richard by breaking the fourth wall between Ian McKellen’s character and the film’s audience. Loncraine’s focus on the element of voyeurism and the sexual and sadistic element of Richard III’s character create the allusion of an intimate relationship with between the actor and the individual viewer, which explains the attractiveness and likability of Richard despite his deplorable behavior.
Shakespeare invites the audience to listen in on Richard’s most private thoughts; Loncraine takes this element of the play a step further by allowing the audience to feel as if they are directly interacting with him in his film adaptation. Loncraine begins to build this relationship between the viewer and Richard in the first scene where we hear Richard’s breathing over the rest of the audio in the background (3:02). In order to clearly hear the inhale and exhale of a person’s breathing, you must be in very close proximity with that person. Loncraine uses this sound technique to create a feeling of closeness to Richard and allude to interactions the viewer will perceive to have with Richard in future scenes. Throughout the rest of the film, while Richard shares his darkest internal monologues with his audience, he often looks directly into the camera to create a private moment between him and the viewer. During his opening soliloquy, the viewer watches Richard urinate and handle his genitals while he expresses his desire for power. Then, Ian McKellen’s character breaks the fourth wall for the first time and confesses his desire in an intimate conversation with the viewer (11:40-11:54). Loncraine’s choice of setting for this first allusion of eye contact is done to heighten the intimacy between you and Richard. The assumption that his genitals are exposed, although they are not displayed in the shot, represents Richard’s lustful relationship with power and adds to the idea of the audience as voyeurs. This is where Loncraine begins to build on the attractiveness of Richard — once the viewer realizes they have a private relationship with him.
Richard becomes attractive to the audience due to his charming and sexual language and his sadistic relationship with taking the throne. In order to be an effective villain, one must be charming and attractive in order to escape defeat. In the scene where Richard catches Lady Anne mourning her dead husband, he makes a very inappropriate attempt to seduce her (16:00). The murder of Lady Anne’s husband was committed to launch Richard’s rise to power. The fact that Richard wants a sexual relationship with the spouse of the man he murdered reveals to us Richard’s lustful connection to violence and dominance. Richard asks Lady Anne to murder him if he cannot have her love and presents a knife to her (19:21). He uses intimate and romantic language while he holds the knife to himself, which is important in understanding Richard’s attraction to violence. The visual image of Richard threatening his own life in conjunction with his sexual desire for Lady Anne excites the audience in two different ways, which allows the audience to feel a sense of how Richard is aroused by violence. Immediately after this interaction, Richard breaks the fourth wall again and speaks directly to the reader (21:31). He says: “Was ever woman in this humor won?/I’ll have her, but I will not keep her long” (1.2.214-215). McKellen speaks these lines from the play directly to the audience to brag about his sexual prowess and confess his lack of commitment to Lady Anne. His seduction of Lady Anne is a tactic rather than a genuine attempt at forming a relationship with her. This confession allows the audience to build a connection between Richard’s sexuality and his rise to power. The audience is made aware of his charm and continues to be wooed by it throughout the movie due to these private interactions between actor and viewer.
It is difficult to define Richard III by one characteristic, as he has a broad set of personality traits and attributes. However, his attractiveness proves to be most significant because it blinds the viewer. The audience is confused by Richard’s desirability because, although they want to condemn him for his criminality and autocratic behavior, they have built a close relationship with him. They have been given a window into the private life of Richard and have been allowed to visualize all aspects of his enigmatic character. Loncraine makes Richard into the perfect attractive villain through his enhancement of Richard’s desirability and the level of intimacy he creates through film techniques.
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