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Shakespeare as Cinematic Experiment: 1908–1921

August 27 - September 24

In the pre-sound era, hundreds of short films were produced from Shakespeare’s plays — mostly one-reelers of highlights with actors in costume. These shorts aimed to grant a bit of respectability to moviegoing, while offering familiar, culturally resonant fare to an increasingly middle-class audience. Certain film companies — Vitagraph, Thanhouser, Pathé’s affiliate Film d’arte Italiana, Cines, Biograph, Kalem, Ambrosio, Gaumont, Eclair, and Nordisk, among others — showed particular interest in these shorts. While many of the films have been lost, a number of archives, including the Library of Congress and the British Film Institute, hold significant collections of these experiments. Organized to coincide with the quatercentenary of the Bard’s death, this series includes lectures, ciné-concerts, and rarely seen film fragments. Special thanks to Anthony Guneratne, Mike Mashon, Zoran Sinobad, Fleur Buckley, George Watson, the Library of Congress, and the George Eastman Museum.

still from the Asta Nielsen Hamlet (German version)
courtesy Deutsche Filminstitut

Film Program

The National Gallery of Art’s film program provides many opportunities throughout the year to view classic and contemporary cinema from around the world. 

View the current schedule here.

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