Thursday, October 7, 2010

II.i. Reynaldo - Fodor (2007)

Or I should say Reynalda. Fodor's more experimental, horror-driven version has already transgendered Polonius and Horatio, and now does the same with Polonia's agent. Now it should be said that this scene doesn't follow from the end of Act I anymore. Or rather does, but other things have been dropped before it, including a musical montage in which we see Hamlet and Ophelia's encounter (which we'll discuss in the next sequence) and the To Be Or Not To Be speech (again, a matter for another day).

The Polonia-Reynalda scene is played as a seduction, with a definite sexual undertone throughout ("under"tone may be underselling it). Polonia feeds her agent black cherries and wine, while dressed in red silk evening wear. The Ghost bears silent witness to her decadence, and the occasional graininess of the film gives the impression that a third party is watching (perhaps it's the audience). At one point, the sound drops out and we hear a ghostly whisper, after which Polonia forgets her place. Polonia isn't old enough to be senile, but she could have played the line as sinister. Instead, we have a third option. She appears confused by the loss of her train of thought (or even memory?). Is she being haunted by the Ghost, who would then be acting supernaturally on characters other than Hamlet? Or is this part of Polonia's sadistic madness?
What she does next is deranged at best. She slips her belt out of her evening gown, and having entranced Reynalda into closing her eyes in anticipation for some pleasure, is about to strangle her with it. Only Ophelia's entrance breaks the spell and prevents her from doing so. There is ambiguity here. It could be a sex game involving suffocation, or it could really be a "spell", putting Polonia under the Ghost's control. If it isn't, what are we to believe about someone who kills her own agent just after giving her orders?
Again, the answer doesn't come easily. An unhinged and volatile Polonia could be mercurial enough to kill her own agent, forgetting the mission in that moment of passion. The mission itself could be a pretext for getting Reynalda into her quarters and/or make her disappear smoothly in the wake of the pleasure-driven murder. One clue: As Polonia discusses her brother Laertes - "He's very wild, addicted..." - we see a flash of him striking a woman. There's no need to sully his name when the character has already been shown to be all those things, which Polonia well knows. So is Reynalda's mission a fake from the start? Just a game she plays with her mistress?

As usual, Fodor likes to keep us guessing.


Anonymous said...

I adore your thoughtfulness and insight, as always (if I haven't already made that clear, because heaven knows I don't comment here as often as I ought to), especially regarding that business with the belt. I think there are two separate conundrums here, each breaking down into "is or isn't": either Polonia's mission for Reynalda is real or it isn't; either Polonia's planning to kill Reynalda or she isn't.

If the mission is real, but Polonia is also actually about to kill Reynalda, she is either somehow deranged, or being controlled by the Ghost at the very end. If the mission is fake, but the murder would have been real, the thing could have been, like you said, a pretense. If the mission is real, but Polonia's not going to kill Reynalda, she could be bribing her with sex (erotic asphyxiation?) to go to France, which lends the entire mission a sexual nature. If Polonia is neither serious about the mission nor about to strangle her agent, it's all part of their game.

Each option lends a different shade to Polonia's character, as well as raising new questions. If she is being controlled by the Ghost, for how long? And does she fall under his spell again? If the mission is a ruse to lure Reynalda in, how far will Polonia go for a cheap thrill? Or how far back does their relationship go? If Polonia is bribing Reynalda, is France really that bad? or does Reynalda just have a high price? Is there something Polonia needs her to do that requires a certain type of payment? (Or they could be just, you know, having sex for the heck of it, but I think "bribing" sounds more dramatic. And it wouldn't be out-of-character, either.) If it's all their game, why does Polonia bring Laertes into the picture? Does the thought of Laertes debauching in France do something for her? (If so, ew.)

Er, sorry about the wall of text... Sometimes I get carried away. :P

Siskoid said...

Please, don't apologize for commenting - it's what I'd like more people to do. Always good to add to the unending stream of commentary on the play.

As for the Polonius family in this version, there is definitely an incestuous vibe there. "Ew" away.