Monday, November 29, 2010

II.ii. New Arrivals - Olivier '48

Olivier omits this section, and in fact, removes Rosencrantz & Guildenstern from the play entirely! The play survives the cut, just as it does that of the ambassadors and the entire Norway subplot, but at the cost of texture. In losing R&G, we lose mirrors of Horatio and Hamlet, though that mirroring does not seem to particularly interest Olivier. R&G are, after all, mirrors of each other, and their interchangeability perhaps a sort of key to the play's themes. Key speeches made at them are turned into monologues, and important exchanges are given to the play's other sycophant, Polonius.

Sad to see these two gone from the play, but it still works. Of course, you could probably convince me that the play works with ANY of the characters removed from it and I'd believe you. Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is but the most extreme example. And the one that's the complete opposite of Olivier's.


Cross said...

Oh dear, I haven't commented here in forever, have I? :(

Yet another reason why I don't like Olivier's - or, at least, why it shouldn't be considered the quintessential Hamlet. (Nothing should, really, which is perhaps the greatest of many things this blog had helped me to understand.)

Hmm... I could actually see it working without Ophelia. Can't do without any of the royal family, of course, or Laertes, or Polonius for what his death does to Laertes. But plot-wise, Ophelia is more a figure than a doer: she affects people, but she does very little to move the plot along. Although if you got rid of her, there'd only be one female character left, which would be sad (although lord knows I love a good transgendering), and she's such a lovely foil for Horatio. Also, you'd probably have to lose most of the grave scene.

Speaking of Horatio... his lines, moments, sometimes entire scenes (thou art e'en as just a man, letter scene, beginning of V.2) are cut so often that I'm sure it's not unheard of for him to be done away with altogether. Although I do love him dearly. :(

Who else... Well, the Norway subplot is so often gotten rid of that anyone connected with it is an easy target. Also, the gravediggers.

Have you seen Asta Nielsen's Hamlet? It's a very odd silent film from 1920; many elements of the plot are changed. Claudius and Gertrude are in on killing Hamlet Sr together, and Gertrude conspires with Laertes to kill Hamlet in revenge for killing Claudius. Claudius certainly isn't out of the picture, but he's a much smaller element in the plot, and certainly makes fewer decisions.

Siskoid said...

Wow, that's pretty daring for such an early film. I'll have to look it up.

Great comments, you more than make up for the lack of them. ;-)