Thursday, February 17, 2011

II.ii. The Fishmonger Scene - Hamlet 2000

This sequence appears before Polonius' talk with the Royals, and so gives it a different spin. In this version of the play, Polonius checks on Hamlet before going to his parents and is the smarter for it, even getting the jump on a startled Hamlet in stark opposition to other portrayals that have Hamlet sneaking up on the older man, on eye over the edge of his book. And of course, there is no book here. Instead, Hamlet is viewing one of his video diaries, one that contains part of the speech that discusses Claudius taking part in the "King's rouse" (" oft it chances in particular men..."). Not only does Polonius surprise him, but he has also glimpsed something of Hamlet's true interior monologue. Hamlet is less mad here than angry with himself and trying to cover with feigned madness, throwing Polonius off-track by mentioning his daughter.

The use of the video diary also means we don't get "Words, words, words", sadly, which also means the slanders are absent.

Not for the first time, and a good nine years before the Tennant version, security cameras are used to cover the scene and give the sense of hyper-surveillance that, in Elizabethan drama, is the purview of arrases. Polonius speaks his asides to this camera. Who is watching? Not the King, certainly, because Polonius hasn't yet informed him of his suspicions. His own video diary then, using Elsinore's entire network. Or us, if you want to go postmodern with it.
When he catches up to Hamlet, the prince hides a gun, throwing a shadow over his next line about walking into his grave. Just before the sequence's final repetition, Hamlet pops his head out of the corridor and is himself repeated in the mirrored wall. An image of... a man with two sides to his personality? Or is it that Alice-like, he walks through the looking glass and into a fantasy of his revenge?
Though the first "except my life", as normal, is spoken to Polonius, the next shot has Hamlet repeating the line three times (one more than in the play) as voice-over even as he walks through his uncle's offices with his gun. Shades of the confessional scene that comes later, this time Hamlet cannot do the deed because Claudius isn't there (he's in the pool, upstairs). Hamlet 2000's protagonist appears at that moment quite capable of carrying off his revenge, or is it all fantasy (no one notices or reacts)? The idea is that the more the play progresses, the more time Hamlet has to reflect on his actions, the less he's able to commit murder. A crime of passion is possible for him, but he can't intellectually commit to such an act.

Though the text itself does not feature such a scene, this idea nonetheless runs through the play. Hamlet is, in a way, about morality being an artifact of reason. Where Claudius is able to kill his own brother for passion's sake (the Gertrude defense), Hamlet the university student cannot commit murder once he starts verbalizing his emotions and condition. At the end, he only kills once he's incensed by the sword fight and his mother's murder. Hamlet's killings are done in anger, and though he's intellectualized them a priori, they ARE crimes of passion when they finally occur.

No comments: