Whistling in the Graveyard? or Why did the Soviets make four films of one Shakespeare play in four decades?

Ronan Paterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the former Soviet Union, the plays of Shakespeare were more popular than anywhere else in the world. Theatres all over that vast country produced frequent performances of the comedies and the tragedies. But in the cinema, although a number of Shakespeare films were made by Soviet film makers, with a very few exceptions the plays chosen were the comedies. This is completely at odds with the filming of Shakespeare elsewhere in the world, where the vast majority of films was based upon the tragedies. One play in particular was filmed more frequently than all the others. Much Ado About Nothing was filmed three times in twenty-three years in Russia, and when a fourth film, made in East Germany is added, Much Ado About Nothing on its own represents a significant proportion of the Shakespeare output of the former Soviet Bloc. Why was Much Ado About Nothing so popular? Why not Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream or As You Like It? The author examines the 1956 and 1973 films of Mnogo Shuma Iz Nichego, the 1964 film Viel Lärm Um Nichts and the 1983 version Lyubovyu Za Lyubov and tries to explain why this one play above all others should exert such a fascination for Soviet Bloc film makers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalCahiers Shakespeare en Denevir
Issue number2018
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2018


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