Not too far from Canterbury
When turned into a modern performance, specifically a film, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales takes form in a narrator-centered tale of a naïve young English major who takes Chaucer’s work and envisions it on a modern platform. The film would take place in O’Hare airport during the heart of winter when canceled flights are in abundance. The narrator’s flight home for Christmas is delayed until morning, and he is stuck in his terminal with no luggage but a copy of the Canterbury Tales. He sits down in a corner of the terminal filled with a variety of aggravated and exhausted travelers and flips to the prologue of the fourteenth century literary work. He narrates the film through voiceover that reflects his inner thoughts and perceptions. After a while the young college student begins to notice the passengers around him quite accurately resemble the main characters that Chaucer outlines in his prologue. He notices that these oddly similar travelers share similar outward appearance as the Knight (a high ranking officer in the Army), the Wife of Bath (a well traveled shoe designer), the Pardoner (a swindling health insurance salesman), the Squire (son of the Army Major heading to West Point next year, with wandering eyes), and the Summoner (an unqualified drunk of a sheriff). The narrator’s imagination starts to run wild as he continues to birth his own version of Chaucer’s tales that place his fellow travelers in the heart of the stories. Using voiceover, the student processes through these imagined stories by using the language of the Canterbury Tales.
The critical constant theme of the film is that in today’s society, outward appearances still broadcast a person’s character and morality. This argument is cemented in the performance through limited dialogue between the characters balanced with a bounty of visual observations by the narrator. This emphasizes Chaucer’s belief that physicality and how one presents one’s self gives great insight into the true morality of that person. Strong imagery of clothing and precise detail of the appearance of the main passengers will be used. From every movement to each article of clothing worn by the passengers will clearly represent the main characters of Chaucer’s tale. For example the wealthy fashion-forward woman, representing the Wife of Bath, travels with a connecting flight to Milan. She will be wearing red stockings and be seen constantly talking with others around her in a flirtatious and somewhat argumentative fashion. This heavy dose of symbolism is crucial in setting the Canterbury Tales on a modern stage.
The progression of the film is dictated by and follows the youthful student’s, whose name we learn at the end is Henry Bliley, reading of the Canterbury Tales. For each of the five tales he reads he will imagine the stories taking place in current day. Each time the narrator begins narrating the imagined stories the setting location will change to fit the tale. The narrator will be reading Chaucer’s stories yet the performance will be a modern equivalent to the 14th century tales. For example the Knights Tale will take place in a US prisoner camp in Afghanistan. Once all five stories are performed the film will end with the passengers walking down the Jetway embarking on their own pilgrimage.