“The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” Queen Gertrude dryly observes to her son Hamlet after watching a play he has staged about the murder of a king and the remarriage of his wife — a play meant to echo the events he suspects have already happened in his own court. Thai director Ing K has taken up this play-within-a-play motif and used it to structure Shakespeare Must Die, her 2012 film about an unpopular dictator who bans the staging of Macbeth in his country; the thriller dramatically intercuts between events in the dictator’s life and events in the play itself, which tells of the murder of a king by an ambitious general and his wife.
Soon after its completion, Shakespeare Must Die acquired an extra layer of meta-narrative (and irony) when it was banned by the Thai government for potentially causing “divisiveness among the people of the nation.” The film found an outlet in late August at South Korea’s 6th Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival. “We are fighting because in Thailand, directors have less than human rights,” said Ing K at the festival’s opening ceremony. “But I promise Shakespeare Must Die is not boring. I made it like a Mexican soap opera and a Thai horror film. You can see it, even though Thai people can’t see it.”
To get it out of its country of origin, the film had to be shipped under a false name: Teenage Love Story. Shakespearean, on so many levels.