Saturday, July 17, 2010

I.v. The Ghost's Tale - Fodor (2007)

Fodor's more experimental treatment gives us another very physical Ghost, but this one is unsympathetic, violent and malevolent. From the moment he appears, he's striking his son and grabbing him by the hair. How creepy is this Ghost when it smiles whenever it speaks of murder and transforms every act of fatherly affection into tense violence (such as when it pinches Hamlet's cheek, hard)? As we discussed in Scene 4, the Ghost here is more devil than man. Has hell corrupted his soul or was he always this kind of a man? Is he, in fact, a demon sent to damn Hamlet, entirely justifying the prince's delays? It may turn out that the Ghost was right about Claudius, but does it truly want revenge for its own sake, or is it just an opportunity for Satan to collect some extra souls? You'll note that this Ghost never says the "O horrible" lines, perhaps quite happy to walk into the fires of hell.

Sound design does a lot of the work here. The Ghost's words have a whispery echo, but you can also hear every wet sound to come out of the actor's mouth. It's almost stomach-churning.

More cuts
Because the first confrontation between Hamlet and his parents was cut, we have a Hamlet who harbors no particular resentment towards Claudius. The murder, for him, is a complete surprise. Therefore, he doesn't say "my prophetic soul" when the murderer's identity is spoken. That's an important shift in the play, as it doesn't taint Hamlet's motivation with a certain sense of wish fulfillment. In the text, there is reason to believe that Hamlet imagines the Ghost (after all, the thing never speaks except to him, what if it is a vision and never really speaks at all?) because it sends him exactly on the mission he wants to undertake already. It justifies his own murderous impulse. Here, he had no such bent.

The ambiguity of Hamlet's motivation is restored by the way the scene ends, not with the usual swearing speech, but by the voice of Horatio who pulls him out of his reverie. This was all in his mind and he hasn't moved from his waiting position. It's still night (no "morning air"). It was all in his head. It's a perfectly reasonable way for a spirit to communicate with the living, but if it was an unmotivated hallucination, then Hamlet may well be mad. And yet, because he has no prior negative feelings for Claudius (at least, on screen), there doesn't seem to be a reason for his imagination to act up this way. Fodor does tend to take a problem play and give it more problems.

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