Monday, July 19, 2010

I.v. The Ghost's Tale - The Banquet

Because it doesn't use the integral text (or even all of the plot) ot Shakespeare's original, I do not return to China's The Banquet very often, but some of its staging does at times deserve mention. Such is the case with the completely visual way Hamlet gets his mission from the Ghost. The Ghost does not truly appear in this film, but it does manifest itself. Earlier, Hamlet had paid homage to his father's armor and we saw it weeping blood. That was the only hint of something supernatural going on in the story. It does not communicate anything to Hamlet at that point.

Later, Hamlet is resting on a fountain inside the palace when a piece of cloth wafts down from above, right down to the prince's hand. The images on the cloth depict his father's murder.
That is a very efficient way to stage the scene, especially for audiences who already know the story. As audiences grow more used to elliptical story-telling (as evidenced by modern editing sensibilities, for example), such shortcuts may become more common, even in the theater (where technology may be able to show details actors alone cannot). In a version of Hamlet where the Ghost does not really appear or speak, the audience is left to puzzle out what is happening and why the prince is acting in such a way. There are enough mentions of the murder after this point that we know the basics, and the play within a play would reveal the particular details, bringing the image on the cloth into focus.

Early ambiguity would give way to satisfying revelations, as Shakespeare proves once again how impervious he is to cuts.

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