Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Act I Scene 4 - Tennant (2009)

Scene 4 begins with only Marcellus and Horatio in view and Hamlet popping out from behind them. The theme of the scene is surprises, and you could say every character enters from out of nowhere, especially if you're a member of the Hamlet family. The King's cannon shots, for example, actually make you jump. Not so say Claudius physically appears, but he's noisy enough to be heard in a scene in which he doesn't feature. That actually says something about the disrupting nature of the character (at least to the more quiet and contemplative Hamlet, whose father figure is, in this scene, completely silent). The staging adds fireworks to this cannon shot (in keeping with its modernism) and seems to enjoy them in spite of Hamlet's disapproval. Hamlet's speech about Danish reputation is cut, the loss of which I've decried before, but it does allow the friendship to breathe here. Horatio is not truly chided for enjoying the light show.

This is all Shakespeare's cover for the entrance of the Ghost, of course. A distraction until the next scare. The Ghost comes from behind the camera, so out of the fourth wall if you will, and very early separates Hamlet from his friends. This allows Hamlet's speech to be much more intimate as he is cornered by the corpse of his father. Usually shouting at the Ghost from a distance, the staging here creates entirely new opportunities. Hamlet actually takes on a somewhat childish voice, returned to childhood by his father's appearance. Perhaps can we see something of their relationship in this, as it is legitimate to see Hamlet Sr., as written, as a rather sinister parent.
The Ghost walks right out of Hell and into "cold" Denmark, represented by his steaming cloak. A great effect that was apparently created in the stage version as well, with Patrick Stewart being fitted with a smoke machine. The Ghost eventually points to a direction and walks towards it, with Hamlet following. The stage version scored each of the Ghost's gestures with a tolling bell, very ominous, but this is not used in the film's soundtrack.

When his friends try to stop him, he manages to draw Marcellus' dress sword out of its scabbard and threatens them with it.
A clever way to follow the stage direction despite the modern dress. They also make more of a meal out of his threatening gestures, almost stabbing Horatio, who falls to the ground to avoid the blow. It better motivates his fear in the last part of the scene. He's not just afraid of the Ghost (which he has faced twice now, after all), but of Hamlet himself. His final "Heaven will direct it" here becomes a question. He's perhaps hoping that Marcellus will let things go, but knows he'll probably follow. This makes Horatio less eager to leave his friend to his fate.

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