With its minimalist style, Stephen Dest’s documentary I Am Shakespeare: The Henry Green Story realizes that its true narrative thrust lies not in flashy graphics or recreations but within the power of the spoken word.
Henry Green, a young man from a Connecticut town, historically known for its gun manufacturing, sits in front of two cameras—one aimed straight ahead, the other at a skewed profile—and recounts his life story, interweaving two distinctly divergent paths. Green grew up in poverty, in a town just a stone’s throw away from Yale’s campus. He talks openly about the shame of going to the store with food stamps, wearing hand-me-down clothes, and shame associated with a situation far beyond his control. Green also recounts the swelling pride he would feel as a blazingly talented actor with a penchant for Shakespeare at the Co-Op High School.
“Green walks us through every detail…highlight the various ironies, connections, and metaphors within his own tale.”
For the better part of the film, we are seated eye-level with Green, who is open, charismatic, easy to smile, and quick to joke. He’s a natural storyteller. Director Stephen Dest does not flood the frame with the traditional three-point lighting but instead keeps part of his face eclipsed in shadow, foretelling the duality within Green’s life.
To escape his tumultuous living conditions, Green created an alternative identity for himself. Through this, Green allowed himself to succumb to his more primal instincts, including running with local gangs in his neighborhood. For Green, it was like slipping into one of his stage roles. He could embody the characteristics he created through anger, frustration, and pride, and act accordingly, realizing full well that it was not who “he” truly was inside.
"…its true narrative thrust lies not in flashy graphics or recreations but within the power of the spoken word. "